NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi is speaking out about his COVID-19 diagnosis, explaining where he thinks he contracted the coronavirus and why he hadn't been vaccinated.
He said he believes he caught it from a family member, and that fortunately, his symptoms are mild and manageable.
"In my case, it was a family member who developed symptoms of COVID-19 before I did, that led our whole family to get tested," he said. "I found out I tested positive on Tuesday evening and developed symptoms after that. So most likely this was a case of household transmission."
He said he plans to get vaccinated after he recovers.
"The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and life saving, that's the most important message I have," he said. "For my own case, I haven't felt quite right about getting vaccinated while we still have such limited supply, particularly when so many more vulnerable people needed to get vaccinated themselves. I was doing a shift at our health department vaccine hub and planned to get my first dose once more New Yorkers got theirs."
He wants his diagnosis to serve as a reminder to people to stay safe and take precautions.
"I am doing OK today, ,and I hope that remains the case," he said. "What I will say from my own experience with COVID-19 is it is a fresh reminder of a few things. First, all of us is susceptible to this virus. For me, that is even more motivation to do everything that we can possibly do to try to interrupt and curb the spread of this disease. It's also a reminder that COVID doesn't just affect us as individuals. For me, it was another reflection on the worry and anxiety that comes with COVID-19 in terms of its effects on family members and others we care for so deeply. That too is part of the reason we have been working so hard to ensure people are taking the precautions to prevent the spread and encouraging people, particularly our most vulnerable, to get vaccinated when their turn is up."
And the impact is more than just physical.
"This is something that affects peoples lives in so many different ways," he said. "Yes, in terms of physical health, but also in terms of emotional health and mental health as well. We have to make sure our response to COVID is focused not just on infection, but also all those reverberating effects. This has just been a personal experience that underlines all those things you try to do for the city."
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea added that due to his own coronavirus experience, he felt like he lost the month of January.
"I feel lucky, I feel blessed," he said. "In many ways, I think I had a mild case, complicated a little bit by asthma issues that go back to 9/11 related. I feel really good right now. I took it slow. I heeded the advise of the experts, the doctors. I actually started to do a little toe in the water in terms of exercise this week. I feel I'm past it. I really feel lucky."
Dr. Chokshi became the city's health commissioner in August 2020 after Mayor Bill de Blasio clashed with the previous commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot. He previously served in the Louisiana Department of Health during Hurricane Katrina.
The 59-year-old mayor, who also has not been vaccinated because he's not yet eligible, said he hadn't seen Chokshi in person for a while so didn't believe there was an exposure risk.
De Blasio said that he has been tested for the virus weekly and that the latest result, from this weekend, was negative.
The health commissioner's test result shows "there's always the possibility that COVID can reach us," de Blasio said, urging New Yorkers to keep up precautions.
"They're not perfect, but they work," he said. "The real solution here is to get everyone vaccinated."
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