Mass. public health commissioner taking month of medical leave

Mass. public health commissioner taking month of medical leave
In this March 10, 2020, file photo, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, left, stands with the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Dr. Monica Bharel, during a coronavirus preparedness and planning news conference at the Statehouse in Boston. (Charles Krupa/AP, File)

BOSTON — Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel will be off duty for the next month as she takes medical leave to recover from an unspecified issue, the Department of Public Health announced Thursday morning.

Bharel’s leave is effective immediately and DPH said it is unrelated to COVID-19. Bharel had tested positive for the respiratory disease in late March and was isolated for about four weeks as she recovered from it. She is expected to return to work in early October.

While Bharel is out on leave, DPH General Counsel Margret Cooke will serve as acting commissioner by appointment of Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “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.”

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Cooke joined DPH in 2015 after having served as deputy chief of the attorney general’s office’s Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau, DPH said.

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