Report: NYC Health Head Turns Down NYPD’s Urgent Mask Request

NYPD officers wake up sleeping passengers and direct them to the exits at the 207th Street A-train station, Thursday, April 30, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, in the Manhattan borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/AP Photo

New York City’s health commissioner rejected an urgent request by the New York Police Department (NYPD) for 500,000 surgical masks as the coronavirus crisis surged, telling a high-ranking police official, “I don’t give two rats’ asses about your cops,” according to a report.

Dr. Oxiris Barbot made the heartless comment during a brief phone conversation with NYPD Chief Terence Monahan, the New York Post reported.

Monahan asked Barbot for 500,000 masks, while Barbot was only willing to give him 50,000.

“I don’t give two rats’ asses about your cops,” Barbot said, according to sources. “I need them for others.”

The conversation took place as more cops were calling out sick with symptoms of coronavirus, but before the NYPD had suffered any casualties from the deadly virus.

Although masks do not prevent wearers from being infected with the coronavirus, they can prevent people already sick with the virus from spreading it to others.

The NYPD has recorded 5,490 coronavirus cases among its 55,000 police force and civilian workers, with 41 deaths, according to data released Wednesday evening.

In the wake of Barbot’s comments, NYPD officials discovered that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had a stash of masks, ventilators, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) stored in a New Jersey warehouse.

The department made its case to City Hall, which granted the NYPD 250,000 surgical masks.

The federal Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also supplied the NYPD with PPE suits and disinfectant.

Police unions called for Barbot’s firing in the wake of her comments, calling her remarks “despicable and unforgivable”:

“Dr. Barbot should be forced to look in the eye of every police family who lost a hero to this virus. Look them in the eye and tell them they aren’t worth a rat’s a–,” the Police Benevolent Association tweeted.

“I am not surprised by such vile words coming from an appointee of Mayor de Blasio, whose disdain for law enforcement is legendary,” Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins said in a statement.

“But Dr. Barbot’s comments make it clear she has no personal or professional regard for the police. The primary concern of a medical professional in such an important position should be the safety of all people, and her attitude places police officers in great jeopardy and makes her unfit for the job,” the statement continued.

The city’s Department of Health issued the following statement in response to the report:

Dr. Barbot and Chief [Terence] Monahan have a good working relationship. 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.

“The Commissioner apologized for her contribution to the exchange, the apology was accepted and agreement was arrived between the two to ensure that respirators were delivered to members of the force,” the statement continued.


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