Mayor De Blasio has shown his lack of leadership throughout his years as Mayor, but his current mismanagement of the COVID-19 strategies and effects is going to be his most visible legacy.
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Betsy Combier, email@example.com
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NYC health officials threatened to resign over Mayor de Blasio’s coronavirus mismanagement: sources
Leadership at the city’s health department threatened to resign over Mayor de Blasio’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, The Daily News learned.
The unrest between the department and City Hall began shortly after New York’s first case of the coronavirus two weeks ago and top health officials threatened to step down as recently as last week, sources said.
At least one deputy commissioner and multiple assistant commissioners in the Health Department warned they would resign over de Blasio’s mismanagement and reluctance to take the advice of doctors in his own administration, according to an agency source.
The threat came while health officials tried to push de Blasio into taking a bolder approach to stop the spread of the potentially deadly virus, including implementing stricter “social distancing” measures, sources said.
They stood down, at least for now, after assurances from the mayor’s office that he was committed to following guidance from the agency.
When de Blasio announced schools would close until at least April 20, staffers at the Health Department’s Long Island City headquarters clapped, the agency source said.
“The staff is feeling much better because they can now implement those tactics,” said another source familiar with the discord between the agency and de Blasio’s office.
New York City has 463 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Monday morning -- up from just 20 a week before.
The surge in cases has prompted the city and state to limit public gatherings where New Yorkers, including those without symptoms, could help spread the virus to more vulnerable populations.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people and shutting down all gyms, movie theaters and casinos Monday night, Gov. Cuomo announced.
De Blasio is also ordering all bars, restaurants and cafes to only offer delivery or pickup beginning Tuesday. Nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses and concert venues will also be forced to close.
But until a few days ago, de Blasio has mostly stressed increasing the city’s capacity to test and track down individual cases as opposed to broader measures that will have a wider impact on families, businesses and the public.
“There has been a push for aggressive action and quick decision making by the health department and even the smallest decisions have been big fights and taken longer than they should have -- to say nothing of larger consequential decisions like banning large crowds,” a source familiar with the matter said.
City Hall has also held up the agency’s own guidance to healthcare providers and the public about coronavirus, requiring all communications to go through the mayor’s office, the sources said. De Blasio even approves some personally.
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"It is a frightening thought for the mayor to override health professionals in his own administration for the sake of micromanaging optics,” said another source familiar with the situation.
The discontent got “really bad” when the city shifted from treating a few patients to facing a larger crisis with dozens of cases spread across the five boroughs, one source familiar said.
“They’ve disagreed mostly about the slow pace to adapt to information about how quickly this was advancing and how dramatically we had to change our policies to that,” the source said.
The deputy commissioner for disease control at the agency, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, stopped attending public briefings with the mayor last week.
And de Blasio’s relationship with Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot has grown “toxic.”
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“He’s been yelling at her in meetings in front of other people,” one source familiar said.
De Blasio has also given conflicting information to the public during the outbreak.
On Sunday, de Blasio said on WBLS that the disease “appears” to transmit “when people are symptomatic.”