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Treatment Action Group Regrets NYC Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot’s Resignation

TAG Deplores De Blasio Administration’s Continuing Contempt for  NYC DOHMH and Public Health Professionals Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

CONTACT: Annette Gaudino, 718-208-7531, or annette.gaudino@treatmentactiongroup.org;

August 6, 2020, New York, NY – Treatment Action Group (TAG), the New York City-based research, policy, and advocacy organization, deplores the August 4, 2020 departure of New York’s Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, MD. Dr. Barbot’s departure was forced by the administration of New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio – another in a series of disastrous decisions by the Mayor’s office during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Dr. Barbot’s resignation regrettably shows once again the contempt of NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio for his experienced and professional public health officials at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH),” stated TAG Executive Director Mark Harrington.

The De Blasio administration was late to heed DOHMH’s advice to shut down the City when the pandemic started. The Mayor was disrespectful to Dr. Barbot when the Police Commissioner publicly attacked her with a sexist epithet during a critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) among front-line health workers. The Mayor further degraded and disempowered DOHMH when he transferred responsibility for COVID-19 contact tracing away from the DOHMH – which has hundreds of professionally trained staff with decades of collective experience with contact tracing in previous pandemics such as HIV, tuberculosis, sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), H1N1, Ebola, and many others. This vital work has been handed over to inexperienced and poorly supported staff overseen by Health + Hospitals and two private sector companies (Optum and Salesforce) with zero public health experience. This disastrous decision has led to a disastrous roll-out of SARS-CoV-2 contact tracing in New York City.

TAG’s HIV Project Director, Jeremiah Johnson, commented to Tim Murphy of TheBody.com: “It’s upsetting to see yet another very knowledgeable, professional, quality leader who happens also to be a woman leaving the DOH.”

TAG State and Local Policy Director Annette Gaudino told TheBody.com, “The politicians are removing the public health leaders, and as advocates and community leaders, we really have to get together and come up with our demands. We can’t just ask the city, ‘Please give us better leadership… As with Trump,” Gaudino said, “it seems like [Mayor de Blasio] has a very close circle that’s getting smaller by the day, and those are the only people he listens to, evidence and context be damned.”

TAG calls on the leadership of New York City including the City Council and the Mayor, to restore power and accountability over NYC’s public health to the DOHMH.

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