Unlike the initial lack of coordination and cooperation between New York and New York City public health officials upon the arrival of COVID-19 in 2020, state Health Commissioner Mary Bassett says the staffs are working collaboratively in response to monkeypox.

“We’re determined not to replicate that uncomfortable situation, which is bad for public health,” said Bassett, who previously served as health commissioner for New York City and has maintains relationships with the local team, including the current commissioner, who she communicates with “frequently.”

“We’ve been working very collaboratively with the city health department,” she said. “I went down to participate in the launching of their vaccination site at one of their clinics in Harlem.”

Asked about the timing of the state’s monkeypox disaster declaration and whether it should have been declared earlier, New York’s top doctor said, “Very rarely do we announce emergencies based on a handful of cases.” Asked about the department of health’s position in May that the risk to the public was low, Bassett said it was important that New Yorkers understand they couldn’t get monkeypox from casual contact with another person, such as “rubbing shoulders on a train.”

While Bassett is coordinating this response, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the emergence of polio, she is also overseeing a restructuring of her department.

“I’m determined to make this a place where people are recognized for their work, where they like coming to work, and where we also can show our impact on the on the population,” she said.

The commissioner stressed that the state’s public health infrastructure had been neglected for years before the pandemic and acknowledged that any sort of turnover, with morale and increased staff, would not be fast. “But the way to start is to start and that’s what we’ve done,” Bassett said.