Adams Slows Health Commissioner Transfer Through COVID Surge

Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi at a press briefing Sept. 10.
Photo via Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor-elect Eric Adams named Dr. Ashwin Vasan as the new commissioner for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH0 but announced Dec. 22 that he won’t start until April as current Commissioner Dave Chokshi – who has led NYC through each phase of the COVID pandemic on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s team – will stay on through March.

“For the next three months as we get through this surge, Dr. Chokshi will continue the excellent work he is doing now to increase testing capacity, promote vaccinations and boosters, and stop the spread of this virus,” said Mayor-elect Adams.

“After Dr. Vasan assumes the role, we will build on the progress we have made, ensuring that we continue our fight against the pandemic while delivering on my public health priorities, from boosting mental health services to promoting healthy food in City facilities,” he said. 

Vasan has over 20 years of experience in public health, and New Yorkers may have heard him recently on WNYC with Brian Lehrer discussing the omicron variant of the virus. He is the CEO of Fountain House, a nonprofit organization that has become a national leader in social solutions for mental health. 

“I am deeply honored and humbled to join Mayor-elect Adams’ administration to help New Yorkers fight back against COVID-19, and I am grateful to Dr. Chokshi for his tireless work on behalf of our City. Make no mistake: we will stop the spread of this virus. We will also deliver on the Mayor-elect’s public health priorities by fixing our broken mental health system and ensuring equitable access to clean air, clean water, healthy food, and affordable healthcare,” Vasan said.

Vasan’s Twitter is full of advice and opinions on mental health care as COVID-19 causes New Yorkers to reckon with their safety once again. Next week, he and Adams and Dr. Chokshi will work together to roll out a comprehensive plan to allocate resources as the virus spreads. 

Commissioner Chokshi said of his time in the de Blasio Administration, “I feel a deep sense of duty and care for our City — and I’m committed to our City’s COVID response, as I have been for the past two years. New York City can count on me to see us through another winter.”