New York City health commissioner Oxiris Barbot dismissed a request during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic to provide the police force with a large stockpile of masks, the New York Post reported on Wednesday.
In a phone conversation in late March, NYPD chief of department Terence Monahan asked Barbot for a supply of 500,000 masks to deliver to officers. Barbot said that she could only provide 50,000.
“I don’t give two rats’ asses about your cops,” Barbot told Monahan. “I need them for others.”
That conversation came before the NYPD reported the first death of a police officer from coronavirus on March 28. Since the onset of the city’s outbreak, 5,490 officers and civilian employees of the NYPD have contracted coronavirus, out of about 55,000 total personnel. The police have seen 41 deaths from the illness.
Following Monahan’s request, the NYPD learned that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had a collection of masks and other medical equipment stored in a warehouse in New Jersey. Police officials succeeded in obtaining about 250,000 masks for officers and employees.
In comments to the Post, Department of Health press secretary Patrick Gallahue said Barbot had “apologized for her contribution to the exchange.”
“During the height of COVID, while our hospitals were battling to keep patients alive, there was a heated exchange between the two where things were said out of frustration but no harm was wished on anyone,” Gallahue said.
While the NYPD declined to comment, Police Benevolent Association head Patrick Lynch said Barbot’s remarks were “despicable and unforgivable.” U.S. representative Max Rose, a Democrat whose district includes Staten Island and southern Brooklyn, also criticized Barbot.
“This kind of attitude explains so much about City Hall’s overall response to this crisis,” Rose wrote on Twitter. “Dr. Barbot shouldn’t resign, she should be fired.”