Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the head of New York City’s Health Department, is stepping down from her position due to her “deep disappointment” with how the city’s government handled the COVID-19 outbreak.
In her resignation letter, which The New York Times obtained a copy of, Barbot wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), “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.”
“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,” she added.
Barbot’s resignation came after a rift emerged with de Blasio after the mayor put the public hospital system, not the Health Department, in charge of contract tracing.
At a news conference, de Blasio said, “It had been clear in recent days that it was time for a change.”
“We need an atmosphere of unity. We need an atmosphere of common purpose,” he added.
De Blasio announced the change in May, which received some criticism from public health experts who questioned the wisdom of changing a system that previously worked amid a pandemic. At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the Health Department was conducting contact tracing.
Dr. Mary T. Bassett, a former head of the health department, said, “These are core functions of public health agencies around the world, including New York City, which has decades of experience.”
“To confront Covid-19, it makes sense to build on this expertise,” she added.
New York City was once the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. At its peak in early April, the city was recording roughly 5,000 new coronavirus cases per day. At the same time, the city was reporting around 700 coronavirus deaths per day.
However, since April, the number of new cases reported per day has been steadily declining. And on August 3, the coronavirus death toll was nine.