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State Public Health Commissioner Bharel on medical leave

Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Dr. Monica Bharel, the state public health commissioner who tested positive for COVID-19 in March, has taken a medical leave effective immediately and expects to return to work next month, officials said.

In a statement, the Department of Public Health said Bharel’s medical leave is not related to COVID-19.

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


Cooke normally serves as DPH general counsel.

Bharel had recovered from her earlier COVID-19 diagnosis and later described the experience to the State House News Service.

"As a medical doctor and as the state’s chief medical doctor, it was my duty and my job to learn everything I could and understand COVID-19, and I didn’t expect to have it myself,” she told the News Service in April. “As I was experiencing all the symptoms I read about, I was learning firsthand what it felt like, how intense the muscle aches could be, how the eye pain could keep you up all night, what it means to try to eat when you’ve lost your sense of smell.”

Further information about Bharel’s current medical leave wasn’t disclosed.

"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 in Thursday’s statement.

Travis Andersen can be reached at