While New York City has been held up as an example of how to flatten the coronavirus curve, many city leaders counter that narrative with their own accounts of a botched response by local elected officials.
On Tuesday, Dr. Oxiris Barbot joined that chorus of critics when she submitted her resignation from her post as commissioner of the city’s health department, as reported by the New York Post.
“Incomparable disease control expertise”
Barbot took a few parting shots at Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio on her way out, citing her belief that he mismanaged the outbreak as her reason for stepping down.
“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, according to the Post.
The mayor confirmed her resignation later in the day during a hastily assembled press conference and quickly announced her replacement.
“It had been clear certainly in recent days that it was time for a change,” de Blasio told reporters, adding that the city needed “an atmosphere of unity, of common purpose” within the agency.
According to the New York Daily News, he went on to say that there is a “difference between tension and different viewpoints,” noting that there are “always different viewpoints” but that it had recently become “clear that there was a need to move forward” with new leadership.
“At the strategic center of the response”
Nevertheless, Barbot included specific issues in her resignation letter that she said contributed to her decision, asserting that New York City’s medical experts are leaders in “epidemiology, surveillance, and response work” and the city “would be well served by having them at the strategic center of the response not in the background.”
Her major complaint appeared to be de Blasio’s decision to task the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation with all COVID-19 contract tracing, removing the task from the health department’s purview.
Dr. Dave Chokshi, who previously headed the Health and Hospitals Corporation, has been slated to take over the commissionership.
An early and hard-hit hotspot in the coronavirus pandemic, New York City has recorded more than 223,000 cases and at least 23,000 deaths attributed to the virus.
As Barbot and others who served on the front lines of the city’s pandemic response suggest, de Blasio continues to fail the citizens he was elected to serve.