New York City health commissioner Oxiris Barbot resigned on Tuesday, after clashing with Mayor Bill de Blasio for months over the city’s coronavirus response.
De Blasio has a history of clashing with health department officials. In May of this year the mayor opted to place city hospitals in charge of coronavirus contact tracing efforts, despite the health department’s experience with contact tracing for AIDS, measles, and other outbreaks.
“I leave my post today with deep disappointment that during the most critical public health crisis in our lifetime, that the Health Department’s incomparable disease control expertise was not used to the degree it could have been,” Barbot wrote in her resignation letter. “Our experts are world renowned for their epidemiology, surveillance and response work. The city would be well served by having them at the strategic center of the response not in the background.”
At a Tuesday press conference, de Blasio did not directly say whether Barbot was fired.
“You’re going to have disagreements along the way,” de Blasio told reporters. “It had been clear certainly in recent days that it was time for a change, and really about how we move forward.”
Barbot was criticized by de Blasio after the New York Post reported on a March conversation she had with NYPD chief of department Terence Monahan, who was pushing to supply officers with masks.
“I don’t give two rats’ asses about your cops,” Barbot told Monahan. “I need them for others.”
However, a health department official told the New York Times that police had tried to commandeer health department masks that were bound for hospitals, and that Barbot was responding to that attempt.
New York City has seen over 23,000 deaths and 231,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus. More than 2.5 percent of the city’s population has been infected.