Former New York City Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said that the ‘toxicity’ of the relationship between ex-governor Andrew Cuomo and ex-mayor Bill de Blasio directly interfered with public health policy during the pandemic put in place to save lives.
‘It was a significant problem,’ Choksi said during a June 17 interview with the New York Health Foundation, a private non-profit.
‘There were moments where my frustration at not being able to advance public health policy for New Yorkers could be directly tied to the toxicity of that relationship.’
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for a blue-ribbon commission to investigate state Gov. Andrew Cuomo over his alleged nursing home cover-up
The soft-speaking Chokshi came into his role leading the city through the worst public health crisis in 100 years after his predecessor Dr. Orixis Barbot quit in a huff five months into the pandemic.
Barbot bristled under de Blasio’s leadership and the two squabbled over the mayor’s decision to take contact tracing responsibilities away from her department.
The mild-mannered Chokshi seemed more compliant to the mayor’s wishes and even spoke about the importance of ‘humility’ in working with politicians to make public health choices, but even he had problems navigating the power struggle between Cuomo and de Blasio.
Former New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, pictured here, said that feuding between Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio was a ‘significant problem’
De Blasio said he wonders ‘how many lives might’ve been saved’ had Cuomo handled nursing homes differently
‘There was a moment you know again during our vaccination campaign when you know one of the ways in which the governor and the mayor didn’t get along was around authority – who had the authority to do what,’ the former commissioner said.
In December 2020, de Blasio and Chokshi held a press conference to announce the first vaccine shots would to frontline workers like police and nurses in the city.
‘The governor at a press conference less than an hour later said that the mayor and I didn’t have the authority to do that,’ the doctor said.
Chokshi said that Cuomo’s office called him afterward to threaten him.
‘I got a very irate phone call um to let me know in no uncertain terms that I would be held responsible for breaking state law if we were gonna move forward to vaccinate first responders,’ he recalled.
‘It’s ludicrous to think that that’s what our public officials are spending time doing instead of sorting things out so that we can actually move forward with what our responsibility is during a pandemic.’
Cuomo and de Blasio worked together in the Clinton administration, but became political rivals after being elected
New Yorkers became familiar with the animosity between de Blasio and Cuomo early in the mayor’s first term.
Both men worked in the Clinton administration bureaucrats, but as politicians they both jockeyed for the spotlight.
Cuomo usurped de Blasio’s signature Universal Pre-K plan, taking credit for funding it soon after the mayor was elected.
The also bickered over blizzard responses and tax plan, often the governor would hold last minute press conference at the same time as the mayor, often presenting contradicting information.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio slammed Andrew Cuomo for ‘bullying’ a state lawmaker who claimed the governor threatened to ‘destroy’ him unless he helped cover up the COVID-19 nursing home scandal
De Blasio seemed to relish in Cuomo’s downfall after a sexual harassment scandal forced the former governor to resign.
The ex-mayor said that Cuomo should ‘should do everyone a favor and get the hell out of the way.’ De Blasio also called for a special government commission to investigate the Cuomo administrations nursing home policies in response to the pandemic.
The ex-governor was found to have undercounted nursing home deaths that could be tied to his decision to force residents to remain in nursing homes after they were found have contracted Covid.
Cuomo’s spokesman said that he did not recall anyone reaching out to Chokshi regarding the vaccines.
‘I’m not sure what he’s talking about, but at the time we had extremely limited vaccine supply from the federal government and clear state guidelines that prioritized front line healthcare workers,’ Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told the New York Post.
‘City Hall kept failing to fulfill this basic responsibility and rather than focus on the task at hand they threw everything at the wall to change the subject and shift attention away from their ineptitude,’ he said.
During the height of the pandemic, city morgues and funeral homes became overwhelmed with dead bodies
De Blasio, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives, took the opportunity to have another dig at Cuomo.
‘Dr. Dave Chokshi was a civic saint in every way possible and a critically important partner in helping to navigate our city through COVID. The threats he endured were outrageous,’ his campaign told the Post.
The ex-commissioner said that there were times when he went behind the politicians backs and worked with his colleagues in the state to get things done.
‘There were moments when I was reaching out to the health commissioner at the state level to both Dr. [Harold] Zucker and then Dr. [Mary] Bassett [former and current New York State Health Commissioners] to say look it’s part of our responsibility to try to take whatever the relationship between our bosses may be and do what’s right you know on behalf of New Yorkers,’ he said.