Dr. Oxiris Barbot, New York City’s health commissioner, rejected NYPD’s requests for facemasks in late March as coronavirus cases among the police department mounted, according to a New York Post report.
NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan asked Barbot for 500,000 surgical masks, but she would only provide 50,000 and a disparaging remark, according to unnamed sources who were party to the discussion.
“I don’t give two rats’ asses about your cops,” Barbot is said to have told Monahan. “I need them for others.”
The NYPD mask request came as the department saw growing numbers of officers calling out sick days before its first officer died from coronavirus-related health problems. To date, the NYPD has recorded 5,490 cases of coronavirus among its sworn officers and civilian workers and 41 deaths.
In a later conversation during tabletop planning at the city’s Office of Emergency Management headquarters, a source told the New York Post that Monahan complained in front of Barbot to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio about the mask shortage and said that requests for equipment had been made for weeks and “we haven’t gotten an answer.”
Upon hearing the complaint, de Blasio reportedly said: “Oxiris, what is he talking about?”
Sources said Monahan reiterated his department’s need for the equipment, to which de Blasio said, “You definitely need it,” and told Barbot “you’re going to fix this right now.”
Sometime after Monahan’s original conversation with Barbot, the NYPD also reportedly learned the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had a large stockpile of masks, ventilators and other equipment stored at a New Jersey warehouse.
After an appeal, City Hall arranged to provide the NYPD with 250,000 masks. The federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also reportedly learned about the issue and supplied the police department with additional Tyvek protective suits and disinfectant.
Barbot was notably absent from de Blasio’s daily coronavirus press briefings last week. De Blasio also announced the city’s public hospital system would administer a new testing and contact tracing program for coronavirus, even though similar past testing programs have been conducted by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH), where Barbot currently leads.
“During the height of COVID, while our hospitals were battling to keep patients alive, there was a heated exchange between the two where things were said out of frustration but no harm was wished on anyone,” DOH press secretary Patrick Gallahue said in a statement provided to the Post. Gallahue added that Barbot “apologized for her contribution to the exchange.”
The NYPD itself has declined a Post request for comment on the matter.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, called for Barbot to be fired and others have also called for her removal.
“This kind of attitude explains so much about City Hall’s overall response to this crisis,” tweeted Democratic Rep. Max Rose. “Dr. Barbot shouldn’t resign, she should be fired.”
This kind of attitude explains so much about City Hall’s overall response to this crisis.
— Max Rose (@MaxRose4NY) May 14, 2020
Republican City Councilman Joe Borreli tweeted, “Another takeaway. This confirms what many assumed, that the de Blasio administration had just about nothing under control when the pandemic got dicey.”
Another takeaway. This confirms what many assumed, that the de Blasio administration had just about nothing under control when the pandemic got dicey https://t.co/ARUkvBbHoL
— Joe Borelli (@JoeBorelliNYC) May 14, 2020
NBC4 New York reported de Blasio was not aware of the original exchange between Barbot and Monahan, but said he was still trying to get details about the exchange from both officials.
“No public servant should ever in any way say anything disrespectful about the men and women of the NYPD,” he added. “To me it would be inappropriate for anyone, particularly in a leadership role, to suggest any lack of interest in protecting the men and women of the NYPD. That to me would be a real inappropriate statement.”