Nassau Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein in 2021.

Nassau Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein in 2021. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Longtime Nassau County Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence E. Eisenstein, who helped lead the county through the COVID-19 pandemic, has resigned effective next month to pursue private-sector opportunities, County Executive Bruce Blakeman announced Monday.

Eisenstein, who has been health commissioner since 2011, informed officials of his decision Sunday. His last day will be July 29, Blakeman said.

The health commissioner told members of the county Legislature on Monday his new job will be vice president of community and public health at Catholic Health. He said the move will give him more time with his wife and children.

"It has been an honor serving the residents of Nassau County through some of the most difficult and trying times this county has seen," Eisenstein said in a statement.

He thanked the current and past county executives he worked for as well as "the incredible staff at the department who work around the clock for all they have done, and the residents of the county for their support."

Blakeman noted the perils of the pandemic "put the important role the health commissioner plays in the county on full display for the public to see" as he thanked Eisenstein for his years of service.

At Monday's meeting of the county Legislature, attended by Eisenstein, Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) spoke for the 19 members, calling it “an honor and a privilege” to have Eisenstein as health commissioner during his long tenure.

County Legislature Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said members of the Democratic caucus appreciate Eisenstein's "dedication and guidance" during the ongoing pandemic and look forward to reviewing the qualification of candidates for the job.

He also urged the Blakeman administration to let the next commissioner do the job "without interference."

"Medical science — not political science — must guide all decisions that impact the health and wellness of Nassau County residents," said Abrahams.

In January, Abrahams criticized Eisenstein for not challenging Blakeman's executive order that allowed each school district to decide whether masks should be used by staff and students to prevent the spread of COVID-19, even though the state masking mandate was still in place at the time.

While Eisenstein did not "disavow" Blakeman's actions — as Abrahams requested — the commissioner said he had not changed his position on masking.

"At no point have I said people should not wear a mask, nor am I anti-mask," Eisenstein responded in January. "In fact, my position has not changed, in which people have to make the best informed decisions for themselves at the time."

Eisenstein served under former county executives Laura Curran, a Democrat, and Edward Mangano, a Republican.

In an interview on Monday, Curran pointed out the importance of Eisenstein's background as an epidemiologist and ability to explain complex health issues to the public.

"He never talked down to people," she said. "He explained things like a family doctor would. I think that helped keep a lot of people calm in Nassau County when we did those press briefings."

Martine Hackett, director of public health programs at Hofstra University, said the next commissioner should be someone that understands the needs and concerns of different populations in Nassau County have about their health.

"The health of the public is affected by so much more than access to health care that the next health commissioner needs to actively work with residents, schools, community-based organizations, health systems and staff to coordinate health promotion and disease prevention activities," she said.

"This is a job that is political but should not be partisan when it comes to protecting the health of all members of the public."

Blakeman said the search for the next health commissioner began Monday.

With Candice Ferrette and John Valenti

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