"It is startling that months into the worst public health crisis our City has ever faced, the de Blasio administration is undertaking a bureaucratic reshuffling that creates new and unnecessary obstacles for the critical, complicated and sensitive work of contact tracing.
New York City has the best health department in the nation, and possibly the world. The Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has vast experience in infectious disease outbreaks and contact tracing. The move to strip it of the leadership of this critical program defies explanation and raises many practical concerns.
The DOHMH has conducted contact tracing in many outbreaks and epidemics, from tuberculosis and venereal diseases in the 1930s, to more recently HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Hepatitis, and, thus far, COVID-19.
This move has already and will continue to complicate hiring and contracting going forward by taking these functions out of the Fund for Public Health, a DOHMH affiliated non-profit which has efficiently handled the role of hiring to this point.
NYC Health + Hospitals (H+H) is a world-class hospital system with superb leadership. It has many strengths that will play a crucial role in contact tracing, including its public testing sites, 311 telehealth program, and the simple fact that it is the first point of contact for many patients, especially our communities of color. However, H+H's primary responsibility must always be patient care, particularly at a time when our public hospitals are under great strain and on the lookout for another surge in COVID-19 cases.
That is why there is no doubt that DOHMH should be the lead here. This is what the agency is built for and its expertise and a century and a half of experience in contact tracing cannot be duplicated.
We call on Mayor de Blasio to reconsider this decision and to ensure that the vital work of contact tracing is under the unified leadership of our world-class health department."