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NY state health commissioner resigning to return to Harvard

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s state health commissioner will resign Jan. 1 after 13 months in the job to return to Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Mary Bassett said in a statement Friday that she was “leaving now so the next commissioner can have the chance to lead this great department for a full 4-year term under the leadership of Gov. Hochul.”

“This was a very difficult decision,” Bassett said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, won her first full term in the November election, after having taken the office in 2021 following the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Hochul said in a statement that Bassett led the Department of Health during “one of the most challenging public health eras of our lifetimes,” battling the coronavirus, mpox and polio outbreaks. She thanked Bassett for her service.

Mpox is a virus previously known as monkeypox, because it was first seen in research monkeys. The World Health Organization changed the name to mpox last month, saying the original name could be construed as stigmatizing and racist.

Bassett, a former New York City health commissioner, became the state health commissioner on Dec. 1, 2021, taking over for Howard Zucker.

Zucker resigned after facing backlash for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including the Cuomo administration’s decision to downplay the extent of how many people were dying of COVID-19, particularly in nursing homes.

Before becoming state health commissioner, Bassett worked at Harvard, where she was director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and a professor at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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