According to a new report from the New York Times, at least nine high ranking health officials have stepped down or transferred to other roles in recent months, citing tensions with Cuomo's handling of the pandemic. Among them: the deputy commissioner for public health at the State Department of Health (DOH), the state epidemiologist, the director of the DOH's communicable disease control bureau, and the head of the New York's Wadsworth laboratory, the latter of which the Times described as "central to the state’s efforts to detect virus variants."
The through line in all these crucial departures, according to five sources within the DOH, has been a persistent frustration with Cuomo's leadership — and the sense that he has spurned their expertise in favor of his own heavy handed authority.
In a news conference on Friday, the governor — on whose watch nursing home deaths due to COVID may have been an astonishing fifty percent higher than previously tallied — made it quite clear where he stands. "When I say 'experts' in air quotes, it sounds like I'm saying I don't really trust the experts," Cuomo said. "Because I don't. Because I don't."
Among the many issues frustrating health officials has been Cuomo's rejection of the state's existing vaccine distribution protocols. Instead, the governor placed the onus of distribution on local hospitals — and then threatened those hospitals with fines and other consequences when vaccines weren't administered as effectively as he'd expected.
"The governor’s approach in the beginning seemed to go against the grain in terms of what the philosophy was about how to do this,” said Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, a former New York City Health Department deputy commissioner, told the Times. “It did seem to negate 15 to 20 years of work."
Cuomo, for his part, displayed particularly Trumpian bravado in regards to what has been seen as a widely botched vaccine rollout. "It’s the Mike Tyson line: ‘Everybody has a plan until I punch them in the face,'" he told the Times in an interview.
I'm sure the tens of thousands of New York residents who have already died as a result of the pandemic would appreciate the governor's sorry-not-sorry apology, if they could.