At least nine of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) top public health officials have either quit or been reassigned over the past few months, according to a New York Times report on Monday.
This comes after the state’s attorney general on Thursday said that the number of COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes was underreported by nearly 50%. At the same time, Cuomo is facing criticism for the vaccine’s rollout in the Empire State.
State health officials often learned about new coronavirus policies through the governor’s frequent press conferences instead of receiving help in shaping such policies, The Times reported.
Simultaneously, Cuomo developed his own vaccine rollout scheme instead of using a plan high-ranking state health officials were working on that stemmed from “years of preparations at the local level” dating back to the bioterrorism fears that cropped up following the September 11th attacks, according to The Times.
“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,” Dr. Isaac Weisfuse, a former deputy commissioner at New York City’s Health Department, told The Times. “It did seem to negate 15 to 20 years of work.”
New York’s health commissioner, Howard Zucker, told The Times that the situation is not the governor’s fault but rather the overall pandemic’s as the state faces “an intense period of extraordinary stress and pressure and a different job than some signed onto.”
“The Times’s point is several staff left — true, and many others joined the agency with the talents necessary to confront this new challenge,” Zucker added.
Cuomo has also downplayed the role of experts in combatting the pandemic.
“When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts,” Cuomo said at a Friday news conference, talking about scientific expertise at every level of government throughout the pandemic. “Because I don’t. Because I don’t.”
Among those who have left over the past months are Jill Taylor, head of Wadsworth laboratory where scientists detect virus variants, Elizabeth Dufort, medical director of the division of epidemiology, the director of the state bureau of communicable disease control, and the official in charge of health data, according to state records looked over by The Times.
On top of that, The Times reports that the state health department’s No. 2 official left for another job in the state government while another official who helped oversee contact tracing is expected to leave the department for another state government job, too.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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NY Gov Hochul issues executive order: Polio ‘an official diisaster’
New York Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday issued an executive order that Polio is now considered an official disaster.
“On polio, we simply cannot roll the dice,” said Dr. Mary T. Bassett, New York State Health Commissioner. “If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up-to-date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real. I urge New Yorkers to not accept any risk at all.”
The virus that causes polio has been found in the wastewater of more than one county, according to state health officials. “A sewage sample from Nassau County collected in August tested positive for poliovirus, following the prior detection of the virus in wastewater samples in Rockland County, Orange County, Sullivan County and New York City, further indicating that the virus is spreading in the area to some degree” reports The Wall Street Journal.
“The Nassau County sample was also genetically linked to the single confirmed case of paralytic polio that had been identified this summer in a young adult resident in Rockland County who was unvaccinated.”
Hochul’s executive order has been issued through Oct. 9, and expands the network of providers able to administer polio vaccinations to “include emergency-medical-services workers, midwives and pharmacists.”
The new order makes providers send polio-immunization data to the New York State Department of Health in order to better help health officials “focus vaccination efforts on areas of low uptake.”
New York state health officials have sent out alerts to providers, have hung fliers “in houses of worship, grocery stores and summer camps and talked with community leaders about boosting vaccination rates this summer.”
The Wall Street Journal Reports:
The poliovirus spreads mostly when a person touches their mouth after coming in contact with an infected person’s feces. Most infected people don’t develop any symptoms but can still spread the virus, a major concern for health officials, and around a quarter develop flulike symptoms. Those who are vaccinated are at low risk, health officials have said, as getting three doses of the polio vaccine administered in the U.S. is at least 99% effective at preventing paralytic disease.
Health officials, however, also said that certain New Yorkers who are fully vaccinated but at high-risk should receive a single lifetime booster. That applies to individuals who will or might have close contact with a suspected or confirmed polio patient, as well as healthcare workers in those areas who might handle poliovirus samples or treat patients who might have polio…
Two forms of the virus can cause paralysis, one of them being the wild poliovirus found in nature. The case in New York, on the other hand, is caused by vaccine-derived poliovirus, a mutated form of a strain used in an oral polio vaccine…
The oral polio vaccine, used in many parts of the world outside of the U.S., relies on a weakened, live form of the virus that recently inoculated children shed in their feces. In places with lower vaccine uptake, the weakened virus can sometimes circulate and mutate to become more like the wild virus and potentially paralyze people who are not fully vaccinated.
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