Just How Prepared Was New York State?

On May 5th, I discovered this mind boggling statistic: Israel has a population of 8.6 million with 238 coronavirus deaths. New York City has a population of 8.4 million with over 13,724 coronavirus deaths.

New Yorkers must question Dr. Howard Zucker, the state’s health commissioner, who had previously served as assistant director-general at the World Health Organization (W.H.O).

According to his online bio, Dr. Zucker had a previous role as first deputy commissioner, where he worked on the state health department’s preparedness and response initiatives in natural disasters and emergencies. Dr. Zucker had previous experience as a White House Fellow during 9/11.

Given Dr. Zucker’s extensive background, access to health experts, and experience at the W.H.O., what did he know about the coronavirus from December 2019 to March 2020? Why did Dr. Zucker mention a surge of flu cases in December as part of a January 9th news release, but did not mention the coronavirus until March 2nd? Why did every single New York State Health Department news release omit references to China and other countries until January 24th?  Did Dr. Zucker know that China confirmed on January 7th that they identified a novel coronavirus or that the W.H.O. said on January 14th that there was human-to-human transmission? If so, why was nothing said until March?

In the January 24th news release, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “I want to assure New Yorkers that we are prepared.” How exactly was New York state prepared for a disaster? In the same news release, Dr. Zucker said, “This virus is being carefully monitored at federal, state and city levels to ensure the public’s health and safety, and while awareness is important, the current risk to New Yorkers is low.”

Really, a surge in flu cases in December and now the risk to New Yorkers is low? As far back as January 3rd, the news release from the state’s health department says the latest influenza surveillance report shows another sharp increase in flu cases and flu-associated hospitalizations, that lab-confirmed influenza was up 34 percent from the previous week. Might this have been the actual beginnings of the coronavirus in New York?

Was the New York State’s health commissioner reaching out to hospitals and nursing homes to make sure they were prepared for this “surge”? Are there any records of phone calls or emails sent? According to the April 12th edition of The New York Times, U.S. Heath and Human Services secretary Alex Azar II directly warned President Trump of the possibility of a pandemic during a January 30th call. Was New York State’s top health official also informed, and if so, were any alarms sounded at our state level?  Was there any assessment on the numbers of face masks, ventilators, and personal protective equipment New York State had or needed? After President Trump limited travel from China, did Dr. Zucker or Governor Cuomo discuss the situation and map out a plan of action?

In a February 2nd news release, Dr. Zucker said, “Bottom line, as this public health response evolves, we continue to be prepared.” On February 20th, Dr. Zucker publicly recommended that “people should remain vigilant by getting vaccinated.” This is followed by Governor Cuomo, in a February 27th news release, stating, “if you haven’t already been vaccinated, it’s not too late. I urge you to get a vaccine.”

Within a week, in a March 1st statement, Governor Cuomo informs the public of the first case of the coronavirus in New York State, adding, “There is no reason for undue anxiety — the general risk remains low in New York.” Approximately 8 weeks later, this turns out to be completely upsurd as over 18,000  New Yorkers have died and over 300,000 New Yorkers have been infected.

Wouldn’t Dr. Zucker have access to a presumably long list of contacts of health experts within the Center for Disease Control (C.D.C), the W.H.O., and medical institutions, hospitals and research centers around the world?  Did he discuss the situation anyone at the federal, state, or city levels? What exactly did he know and did he fail to disclose information either to Governor Cuomo, or to other health officials or the general public?

There are numerous questions that must be answered. Just as our free press asks questions at the federal level, questions must be directed to New York State officials. New Yorkers deserve to know the truth.

About the Author
Michael J. Weinstein, is a Director - Investments with Oppenheimer & Co. He has over 25 years of experience in financial services and for the past 5 years, serves as a Volunteer with Connect2 Friendly Visits for Holocaust Survivors, a project of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY.
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