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NYC health commissioner resigns amid tensions with mayor

Mannequins with face masks and designer clothing fill a window at a Diane Von Furstenberg store in New York City on September 8, 2020. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 4 (UPI) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio named Dr. Dave Chokshi as the city's new health commissioner Tuesday after Dr. Oxiris Barbot resigned the post.

The leadership change comes after months of discord between the New York City health department and de Blasio during the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York Daily News reported. The novel coronavirus has sickened more than 230,000 people and killed 23,000 in the city, according to a New York Times tracker.

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Barbot announced her resignation in an email to health department staff.

"I am proud that as a woman of color raised in public housing in this city, I always put public health, racial equity and the well-being of the city I love first," she wrote.

"That ethos continues within the agency and I have every confidence that you will continue to serve every day with dignity, integrity and courage for the benefit of all New Yorkers."

The Daily News reported that Barbot resigned over de Blasio's handling of the pandemic. The two leaders had a falling out over the mayor's decision to run the city's contact tracing program out of the NYC Health + Hospitals department instead of the health department.

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De Blasio also criticized Barbot for remarks she made about a dispute over the use of personal protective equipment by the New York Police Department. Barbot wanted to reserve medical-grade masks for healthcare workers while the NYPD sought hundreds of thousands of the masks for their own use.

Barbot hasn't appeared at de Blasio's daily coronavirus briefings since that dispute in May.

The mayor called a news conference Tuesday to announced Chokshi as the new commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Chokshi previously served for six years in the NYC Health + Hospitals.

"Dr. Chokshi has spent his career fighting for those too often left behind," de Blasio said. "Never has that been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic, where he has helped lead our City's public health system under unprecedented challenges. I know he's ready to lead the charge forward in our fight for a fairer and healthier city for all."

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