After his health commissioner tests positive for COVID-19, de Blasio says he’ll still wait for vaccine

Mass vaccination site
Mayor Bill de Blasio tours a mass vaccination site at NYC Health + Hospitals/ Bathgate in the Bronx on Sunday, January 10, 2021.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily briefing had a noticeable absence of Health Commissioner of New York City Dave A. Chokshi, who unfortunately announced Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19.

The irony of the situation was undercut by the very real concern for Chokshi’s status and safety as one of the city’s doctors leading the fight against the health pandemic. De Blasio confirmed that contact tracing has begun, and he and the rest of his staff have been isolated or working remotely, so they haven’t had direct contact with Chokshi for sometime.

“I want to reassure everyone. And, Dr. Chokshi has been doing absolutely amazing work and grueling work protecting us but we’re all human beings. There’s always the possibility that COVID can reach us. It doesn’t change the overall reality,” said de Blasio. “I talked to Dr. Chokshi this morning and he’s doing well. His family is doing well, and hopefully he’ll be able to join us tomorrow.”

Health Commissioner Dr. David ChokshiScreenshot courtesy of Mayor’s office

De Blasio said the precautions the city takes are imperfect but necessary, and ultimately the goal is to get everyone vaccinated. However, he said that he gets tested once a week and doesn’t have an intention of personally getting vaccinated — even after one of his prominent cabinet members tested positive for COVID-19 — before other New Yorkers he feels needs it more, like seniors and first responders.

The mayor said that there needs to be an emphasis on fairness and said he doesn’t qualify for the vaccine in that regard.

Hard-hit Black and Brown neighborhoods have received significantly less shares of vaccines, according to recent city data, reported WNYC. White New Yorkers, who make up about 32% of the city’s population, have received about 48% of doses, while Latinos that make up 29% and have gotten 15% of doses. In keeping with upsetting trends, Black New Yorkers make up about 25% of the city but have received the least amount of vaccinations at 11%. 

Admittedly, the data may be incomplete because many vaccination sites didn’t report by race, said WNYC. 

There have also been persistent campaigns to stave off collective fears of taking the vaccine altogether in the city, and among Black and Brown residents who may mistrust government vaccines because of the U.S’s dark history with experimenting on ethnic groups

Regardless of his personal situation, de Blasio doubled down on his call for state and federal permission to administer second doses currently held in storage. The mayor commended the new Biden administration for sticking to the promise of sending more aid and vaccines, which Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed Tuesday is on the way.

“Right now, not hold them back for weeks ahead, use them right now so we can reach more and more people so we can give them some protection. We need the freedom to vaccinate,” said de Blasio. “We could be vaccinating a lot of seniors right this minute if only we were given the right to use those second doses.”