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NYC medical chief apologizes to the Orthodox community for mishandling outreach during the pandemic

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has learned from past mistakes and is seeking to improve outreach efforts to the Orthodox community in Brooklyn, two senior city officials said in a conference call with Jewish media representatives on Tuesday.

The acknowledgment — as the city is looking to rebuild trust in the COVID-19 vaccination drive — comes as community leaders and city politicians criticized City Hall for failing to communicate effectively about COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions during the pandemic.

“We haven’t gotten everything right — by any means,” Dr. Mitchell Katz, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, told the Forward on the call. “I think this administration really cares about the Orthodox Jewish community, and we’re sorry that it didn’t always get done correctly.”

“I don’t think it was ever an intentional mistake,” Katz added. “I think the important thing is, as we go forward, how do we do a better job?”

Katz also mentioned the passing of his Israeli father-in-law, the father of his partner Rabbi Igael “Iggy” Gurin-Malous, who died of COVID-19 in September in stressing how tough it has been for the city’s residents in the past year.

Dr. Dave Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner who himself recently recovered from the coronavirus, said the goal is “always to do better each day” and investing the time and the resources “for the legitimate partnership that comes from any successful public health campaign” to ensure “that we never return to those dark days of last March and April.”

Chokshi maintained that the city has learned from past experiences in improving outreach and collaboration with local leaders and media outlets during the vaccination campaign.

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