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Mitchell H. Katz, MD
March 30, 2023


We know we can never let our guard down when it comes to COVID-19, however, we can report that cases are decreasing across the country. Here in New York City, all five boroughs have reported ‘moderate’ community transmission levels for the last few weeks. Because of the lower community transmission, the use of face masks in NYC Health + Hospitals clinical facilities is now optional in areas where patient care encounters are not expected to occur. This includes staff break rooms, conference rooms, administrative office spaces, lobbies and elevators.

The use of masks remains mandatory in areas where patients are being cared for, such as emergency departments, clinics, waiting rooms and other patient care units. Masks are optional at all Central Office and MetroPlus locations. Of course, we will continue to respect everyone’s choice to go without a mask or continue wearing one in areas where they are no longer mandatory.

In preparation for the May 11th expiration of the Federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency declaration that ends the funding source for pandemic response, NYC Health + Hospitals will continue to be a gateway for New Yorkers seeking COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccination, regardless of their insurance or immigration status.

Thanks to the extraordinary service of the NYC Test & Treat Corps and the strong connection to the front-line health care providers at NYC Health + Hospitals and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, our City was able to respond to every stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. We can now transition the Test & Treat Corps emergency operations knowing that we have built a stronger, more responsive public health care System that can provide the appropriate level of services to our communities and seamlessly preserve access to the COVID-19 testing, vaccination, and treatment New Yorkers may need for as long as we need it.

On Friday, March 31, COVID-19 walk-in testing tents will close and we will transition mobile Test to Treat units over the next few weeks to shift services to clinics inside our hospitals and at our Gotham Health neighborhood clinics. We will continue offering these COVID-19 services:

  • COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccinations are available by appointment at our 11 hospitals and Gotham Health locations in every borough. To schedule an appointment, call 1-844-NYC-4NYC.
  • If you test positive using an at-home test, you can get free at-home delivery of COVID-19 treatments like Paxlovid. New Yorkers can continue to rely on our team by calling 212-COVID19 or speak to directly to one of our providers available at Virtual ExpressCare.
  • Anyone who is recovering from COVID-19 or has Long COVID, can call 212-COVID19 to be connected to our AfterCare program or one of our Centers of Excellence in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

I want to thank every NYC Test & Treat team member, clinician, contact tracer, and health care worker for their sacrifice and dedication to keeping New Yorkers safe through this pandemic. 


The City’s Office of Labor Relations, and NYC Health + Hospitals, are actively engaged in the collective bargaining process with the New York State Nurses Association, whose contract with the City expired this month. We look forward to productive discussions and a fair new contract for our critical nurse professionals. We are focused on retaining employees, and ultimately reducing our dependency on temporary staff.


I had the opportunity to join the amazing team at NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County to mark the opening of our second long stay unit for patients with severe and persistent mental illness. The new Extended Care Unit can house up to 25 patients at a time and offers psychopharmacological treatment, rehabilitative activities including music and art therapy, reading, and various exercises. Patients are assigned tasks that support interpersonal communication and skill development, such as doing their own laundry or curating a display of patient artwork. As part of a patient’s treatment, staff may accompany patients for trips to the grocery store and the subway to practice re-acclimating to living and thriving in the community despite their mental illness. Staff also assist patients who are experiencing homelessness with securing housing upon discharge. Admission to the Extended Care Unit is voluntary and only available to patients ready to leave acute inpatient psychiatric care. The unit at Kings County Hospital is the second Extended Care Unit in the System; the first opened at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue in 2020 and has served over 200 patients to date. On average, patients stay in the Extended Care Unit for 90 days, compared to an average 18-day stay for patients in acute psychiatric inpatient care.  


I want to thank NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem CEO Georges H. Leconte for agreeing to have cameras follow him as he prepped and underwent a routine colonoscopy this month to encourage more New Yorkers ages 45 to 75 to get screened for the preventable cancer and to help de-stigmatize the potentially life-saving procedure. There is nothing like a compelling personal story to help dispel some of the misconceptions that it is hard to prep for the procedure or that it is painful or embarrassing. Georges’ video testimonial has been viewed by thousands on our social media platforms and was featured on WCBS-TV as part of Colon Cancer Awareness Month.  Our health System is also encouraging New Yorkers to screen for colon cancer with the at-home fecal immunochemical (FIT) test, which is easy and less invasive than colonoscopy. Both the FIT test and the colonoscopy can help prevent colon cancer or find it early when it is more treatable. You can view Mr. Leconte’s video here and learn more about the FIT test here from NYC Health + Hospitals Vice President and Chief Population Health Officer Dr. Nichola Davis.


Earlier this month, NYC Health + Hospitals sponsored a virtual conference for more than 400 providers and staff to discuss our important policies requiring written informed consent to drug-test pregnant patients and newborns. These screening policies were adopted in 2022 to drive equitable care across our health System and address a national trend of disproportionate testing among Black, non-Hispanic patients and the widespread separation of children from their families by child protective services. Participants were seeking answers, referrals and recommendations for change, and the distinguished panel of experts were able to shared prevention and treatment strategies to support family unification.

Speakers included Professor Dorothy E. Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology, and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, University of Pennsylvania School of Law, and author of four books including Killing the Black Body and Torn Apart. Dr. Michele Morse, Chief Medical Officer, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Jeanette Vega, Co-Executive Director of RISE Magazine and Administration of Children’s Services Commissioner Jess Dannhauser.


Tomorrow, March 31th, marks a special milestone in the proud history of the NYC Health + Hospitals public health care System. NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue celebrates its 287th birthday. From its origins in 1736 as a six-bed infirmary, to the formidable medical and academic institution it is today, the storied history of Bellevue Hospital spans the fields of research and science, education and medical training, and the progressive and innovative programs and services designed and offered for all New Yorkers then and now. As the oldest public hospital in the U.S., Bellevue is the site of many firsts including: first bladder stone removal surgery in 1850, first use of the hypodermic syringe in 1856, and among the first ambulance services, established in 1869. During the spring of 2020, when New York City was the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bellevue Hospital served as a pillar of the City’s response, providing innovative care to unprecedented numbers of critically ill patients, and delivering on our mission to serve all, regardless of immigration status or ability to pay. The hospital’s remarkable history is equally matched by the exceptional team of health care professionals who provide outstanding inpatient and outpatient medical and mental health care to tens of thousands of New Yorkers every year. Happy 287th Birthday, Bellevue!


Federal – The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency will be ending on May 11, and with it, many of the Regulatory flexibilities that were helpful to our System’s response. Advocacy continues to make some of these flexibilities permanent, in the hopes of reducing our overall regulatory burden.

State – The negotiations of the NYS fiscal year budget for 23-24 are ongoing, with the new State fiscal year set to begin on April 1st NYC Health + Hospitals continues to advocate for access and equity for Medicaid reimbursement, safety net and capital funding as well as the pharmacy carve out.

City – We had a successful preliminary budget hearing before the City Council on 2/21. I had the able assistance of John Ulberg and Patsy Yang who helped answer many of the Council member’s questions.


I was pleased to announce the appointment of Manuel Saez as Vice President of Facilities for our health System. Mr. Saez will oversee an approximately $10 billion-dollar portfolio consisting of over 300 projects, spanning from opening the recently constructed NYC Health + Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health to upgrading and maintaining critical hospital infrastructure throughout the System, in addition to a dedicated team of 100 facilities staff and 700 full-time engineers and tradespeople. Mr. Saez is an inspirational, hands on leader with more than 25 years of experience in the health care industry, including 11 years at NYC Health + Hospitals. Mr. Saez played a central role in our System’s heroic COVID response – keeping critical systems on-line under enormous strain, rapidly adapting our facilities, and responding to the many unprecedented emergencies and curve balls during that horrible time. Mr. Saez will be a tremendous leader and a steady hand as we move forward with an ambitious infrastructure improvement agenda in the years ahead.


I have authorized the following contracted services. All of these agreements can be terminated on 30 days’ notice.

  • For food services at HERRC hotels with Rethink Food NYC, Inc., for a period of 12 months, and a not to exceed amount of $87,800,000. 
  • Expanded the scope of the Medrite LLC contract to take over the HERRC wrap-around services of another vendor given Medrite’s superior performance and lower cost.  The new authorized not to exceed amount is $304,900,000 for a period of 12 months.
  • Expanded the period of performance for an existing HERRC contract, Rapid Reliable Testing NY, LLC (dba DocGo), which is providing triage and referral services for a period of 12 months, from 5 months originally.
  • Increased the scale of an existing vendor contract for temporary security staffing at the hotels, Aron Security, Inc.  The authorized not to exceed amount for this work is $140,000,000 for a period of 12 months.
  • For laundry services at the hotels with HappyNest, Inc., as well as Sodexo Laundry Services, Inc. in consortium with Nexera, LLC, for a period of 12 months, and a not to exceed amount of $6,400,00 and $10,500,000, respectively. 
  • Increased the scale of an existing vendor contract for temporary staffing services, RightSourcing, Inc. The authorized not to exceed amount for this work is $83,000,000 for a period of 12 months.
  • New hotel contracts with Holiday Inn 99 for a period of 14 months with a not to exceed amount of $34,500,000; Wingate by Windham LLC for a period of 15 months with a not to exceed amount of $11,000,000; Candler Building for a period of 12 months with a not to exceed amount of $24,276,986.
  • Renewed hotel contracts with The Row and the Wolcott for an additional 12 months, and the Watson for an additional 6 months.
  • With Change Healthcare Solutions, LLC, for continuation of patient call center operation services for a period beginning January 1, 2023 through consummation of a new contract resulting from an RFP that is currently in process, with a not to exceed amount of $18,000,000.