Dr. Don Weiss was removed from his post as director of surveillance at the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene‘s Bureau of Communicable Diseases to the Division of Family and Child Health in July. His transfer came shortly after he publicly disagreed with the city’s monkeypox messaging.
According to Weiss, it was very irresponsible for the Health Department to not advise people at high risk for the disease – specifically, gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men – to temporarily reduce their number of sexual partners. (Related: If gays didn’t receive special treatment by society, monkeypox would be a non-issue.)
Weiss also criticized the Health Department for its claim that men who choose not to curb their sexual proclivities can reduce their risk of catching or spreading monkeypox by avoiding kissing and covering all sores with clothing or sealed bandages.
He argued that the best way for men who have sex with men to limit the spread of monkeypox is to completely abstain from or reduce sex for a period of time.
“Monkeypox in NYC is a sexually transmitted infection. Not communicating this clearly and often is a public health failure,” wrote Weiss in a letter to Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “[The Health Department] continues to emphasize skin-to-skin contact as the major risk and have now dangerously suggested that sex is not a risk, as long as you don’t kiss and cover your sores. This is completely contrary to the evidence.”
Weiss criticized the department’s leadership for being more concerned with avoiding causing more stigma for gay or bisexual men rather than “giving people the risk information they need to protect themselves and others.”
Weiss believes the retribution against him is a violation of whistleblower statutes, and has enlisted the whistleblower advocacy group Government Accountability Project (GAP) to help him get reinstated to his old post.
The GAP is known for representing high-profile figures like Edward Snowden, who leaked information about National Security Agency-run electronic spying programs, and Phyllis McKelvey, who blew the whistle on faulty food safety inspections conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture.
The watchdog organization has sent a letter to Vasan informing him that Weiss will be using city and state laws, rules and regulations that are designed to protect whistleblowers like him to get his old job back “and other relief.”
David Seide, a GAP attorney representing Weiss, said there are various measures the group can take to get him reinstated, including filing a misconduct report with the New York City Department of Investigation so that it can conduct an internal review of the Health Department.
“A lawsuit is one of our options, but it’s far from the only option,” said Seide.
Patrick Gallahue, a spokesperson for the Health Department, told Gothamist that “staffing decisions are based on operational need.” But the GAP asserts that Weiss’ reassignment was a demotion and that he is clearly “a victim of unlawful whistleblower retaliation.”
Watch this clip from InfoWars as Owen Shroyer discusses how pride month caused America’s monkeypox outbreak – and nobody wants to talk about it.
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