Mass. Public Health Commissioner On Medical Leave

Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel's leave of absence is unrelated to the coronavirus, though she tested positive in March

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Massachusetts' top health official is on temporary medical leave, the Baker administration announced Thursday.

Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel's leave of absence, effectively immediately, is unrelated to COVID-19, according to officials.

Bharel tested positive for coronavirus six months ago, worked from home while she battled the virus and spent about four weeks in isolation before getting back to the office in April.

Bharel is expected to return to work in early October. She has been working closely with Gov. Charlie Baker and other officials as the Bay State responds to the ongoing pandemic.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders appointed the Department of Public Health's general counsel, Margret Cooke, as acting commissioner.

"All of us wish Commissioner Bharel a speedy recovery and look forward to welcoming her back to the Department,” Sudders said. “In the interim, I have every confidence in Acting Commissioner Cooke’s ability to provide the executive leadership for the Department during this time.”

Cooke joined the department in 2015 after working in the Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau under the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.

"I appreciate the leadership of Margret Cooke and all of the DPH team to continue to assist the state in responding to the pandemic as well as managing our public health programs on behalf of the residents of the Commonwealth,” Bharel said.  

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