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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TN Republican introduces legislation to fight opioid shipments into U.S.
Tennessee Republican Representative Diana Harshbarger is attempting to fight the opioid crisis and epidemic through new legislation. Introduced Friday, Harshbarger told the Daily Caller:
The Daily Caller first obtained a copy of the legislation, which addresses what Harshbarger calls a “loophole.” The legislation amends the Controlled Substances Act to specifically require registrants to investigate reports of suspicious orders of controlled substances and halt them if necessary. Under the version of the act currently in force, drug manufacturers and distributors are only required to report suspicious orders of opioids and other controlled substances to the DEA.
“Breaking the opioid epidemic’s stranglehold on our nation is one of my foremost priorities. In an effort to do so, my colleagues and I have identified a loophole that allows distributors to continue order fulfillment, even under suspicious circumstances.”
“My bill closes that loophole with the requirements and guardrails needed to ensure these addictive and potentially dangerous drugs do not fall into the wrong hands while the DEA investigates. The future of our nation depends on us solving the addiction crisis, and this is a step towards that outcome” Harshbarger continued.
The Daily Caller reports:
According to a congressional report released in September, the opioid crisis cost the U.S. $1.5 trillion during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC says 93,331 people died from overdoses in the U.S. in 2020, the highest in 50 years. Opioid-related deaths made up nearly three-quarters of the total.
Pharmaceutical companies have been blamed for contributing to the opioid epidemic. The Department of Justice is currently suing the pharmaceutical company AmerisourceBergen over allegations the company failed to report suspicious orders of opioids to federal law enforcement.
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