NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City’s health commissioner resigned on Tuesday after months of tension with Mayor Bill de Blasio over the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and a public clash with the police department.
In an email sent to de Blasio that the New York Times obtained, Dr. Oxiris Barbot said she was leaving with “deep disappointment” over the fact that the Health Department’s expertise was not “used to the degree it could have been” as New York City, once the pandemic’s U.S. epicenter, fought to contain the virus that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of its residents.
In May, de Blasio was criticized for giving control of the city’s COVID-19 contact tracing efforts to the public hospital system instead of putting it in the hands of the health department, which had run such programs before.
In the message to her staff announcing her resignation, Barbot also appeared to criticize the city’s handling of the pandemic response.
“Your experience and guidance have been the beacon leading this city through this historic pandemic and that to successfully brace against the inevitable second wave, your talents must be better leveraged,” Barbot wrote.
In May, she came under fire after reports quoted her dismissing a police request for surgical face masks to protect officers from the coronavirus during a heated exchange with the chief of the New York City Police Department.
De Blasio on Tuesday appointed Dave Chokshi, who previously held senior leadership roles with the city’s public hospital system, to replace Barbot as the new commissioner.
Barbot, who headed the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene since 2018, previously held other positions in public health, including as health commissioner of Baltimore.
“I want to thank her (Barbot) for the important work she did during this crisis,” de Blasio said at press conference on Tuesday, adding “it was time for a change.”
(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Aurora Ellis)