BOSTON — The medical director of the city agency coordinating Boston’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been working remotely from Hawaii for several months, and even though she has permission to do so, some critics say it may hinder her effectiveness.
Dr. Jennifer Lo relocated with her family in November with approval from Rita Nieves, the Boston Public Health Commission’s executive director, NBC10 Boston reported Friday.
Since then, the city has had to deal with a post-holiday surge in cases and the vaccine rollout.
As medical director, Lo’s job is to advise the commission on medical policy issues.
Atyia Martin, a former director of disaster preparedness for the commission, said she was shocked to learn Lo was working from so far away.
“We are in what amounts to the Super Bowl of emergencies,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine that key members of the team aren’t there in the game physically to play.”
Lo, in an email to the station, said she and her husband made “the difficult decision” to temporarily relocate to Hawaii for personal reasons, including to take care of two sets of aging parents. She said plans on returning to Massachusetts this summer.
She offered to resign, but the commission “determined I would be able to effectively continue my work remotely while maintaining the same level of responsibilities required in this role,” she wrote.
Nieves said she consulted with other city leaders before approving Lo’s work arrangement. She added that it took about a year to fill the position the last time it opened and she didn’t want to risk being without a medical director during an emergency.
Lo is technically not an employee of the commission, but is subcontracted from the health care organization she is affiliated with, and therefore not subject to the Boston residency requirement, Nieves said in an email to commission workers.