Governor Newsom on California Public Health Director’s Sudden Resignation

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California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell announced her resignation effective immediately and Governor Newsom did not have much to say about it.

Dr. Angell shared her resignation shortly after a glitch was discovered in California’s data system, causing an under-reporting of coronavirus cases across the state.

The governor’s office said Sandra Shewry will be appointed as Acting California Department of Public Health Director and Dr. Erica Pan will assume the role of Acting State Public Health Officer.

During Monday’s press conference, Dr. Mark Ghaly said his team worked over the weekend to make sure the 300,000 backlogs were properly reported. Numbers should be released in 48 to 72 hours and counties should have accurate numbers by the end of the week.

As of Sunday, state officials said California has seen 554,000 coronavirus cases in California. There have been more than 10,200 deaths statewide, with the majority in Los Angeles County.

When asked about Angell’s resignation during the question and answer portion of the press conference, Governor Newsom said, “She resigned, we accepted her resignation” and that he did not want to air any more information than that. When asked why he would not provide more insight Newsom responded, “I try not to have personnel conversations in public…Decisions were made, we’re moving forward, no one is trying to hide that, no one is trying to mask that.”

In a statement, Gov. Gavin Newsom thanked her for her service:

“I want to thank Dr. Angell for her service to the state and her work to help steer our public health system during this global pandemic, while never losing sight of the importance of health equity.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said,

“I am grateful to Dr. Angell for her service to the people of California during this unprecedented public health crisis. She has worked tirelessly for all Californians, always keeping health equity in mind. Her leadership was instrumental as Californians flattened the curve once and in setting us on a path to do so again.”

See Angell’s full email to staff below:

Dear California Department of Public Health Colleagues,

Since I joined this Department as Director and State Public Health Officer in October 2019, we have been responding to emergencies, from E-cigarette and Vaping Associated Lung Injury, to the Public Safety Power Shutoffs and wildfires, and now to a global infectious disease pandemic. We have done all this, even as we have continued to deliver on the Department’s core public health functions. It is with deep appreciation and respect for all of this work that I share with you my own plans to depart from my position, effective today.

Since January, when we got word of repatriation flights arriving from Wuhan, China, our Department has been front and center in what has become an all-of-government response of unprecedented proportions to COVID-19. Not one of our staff has gone untouched by the changes that have occurred. Not in our professional lives or our personal lives.

You have all stepped up to the calling. Some have done so by shifting your entire portfolio to emergency efforts, others of you have kept our State’s core public health work moving forward. Each and every one of you has been essential, because we know that in the final calculation, health is not defined by one condition, disease or experience. In the final calculation, all of our work, in aggregate, makes the difference.

I remain consistently impressed and humbled by the expertise, commitment, passion and kindness demonstrated by all of you daily. We have led with science and data, and with equity at the core of our intentions. As the first Latina in this role, I am very proud to have served this Department, Administration and our State, alongside all of you.

Through Secretary Ghaly and our Department’s Chief Deputy Directors, Susan Fanelli and Brandon Nunes, plans are in a place for a smooth leadership transition.

In Solidarity,
Sonia Angell, MD MPH

Pat Thurston shared her insight on the current situation on her show today. Listen below.


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