New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene commissioner resigned on Tuesday. Dr. Oxiris Barbot helped lead the city’s coronavirus response, sitting beside Mayor Bill de Blasio at numerous press conferences over the past several months.
In a letter sent to staff on Tuesday, obtained by CBS News, Barbot did not provide a reason for her departure, but wrote that the department “must be better leveraged” as the city prepares for a likely second wave of the pandemic.
“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 alongside that of our sister agencies,” she wrote.
“I have every confidence that you, the committed individuals of this agency, will continue to dedicate yourselves to protecting the health of all New Yorkers during this unprecedented public health emergency. The moment demands it without distractions.”
Barbot came under fire at the height of the pandemic after she got into a heated dispute with NYPD officials about access to protective face masks, CBS New York reports. In March, when PPE supplies were in high demand, the NYPD requested 500,000 surgical masks from the city, but were told they would only receive 50,000. Barbot later issued an apology for making remarks that she described as “regrettable.”
On Tuesday, she said that, despite resigning, her commitment to the city and public health is “unwavering.”
“I am proud that as a woman of color raised in public housing in this city, I always put public health, racial equity and the well-being of the city I love first,” Barbot wrote. “That ethos continues within the agency and I have every confidence that you will continue to serve every day with dignity, integrity and courage for the benefit of all New Yorkers.”
De Blasio named as her successor Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, who has served in leadership roles at NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest public health care system in the nation.
“Dr. Chokshi has spent his career fighting for those too often left behind,” de Blasio said in a press release announcing the appointment. “Never has that been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic, where he has helped lead our City’s public health system under unprecedented challenges. I know he’s ready to lead the charge forward in our fight for a fairer and healthier city for all.”
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