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California’s top public health official leaves job five months into COVID-19 pandemic

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California’s top public health official leaves job five months into COVID-19 pandemic

California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell announced Sunday she is leaving her job, becoming the second top-ranking health official in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration to depart during the COVID-19 pandemic. Angell has been one of the most visible California officials during the pandemic, the public health crisis that has killed more than […]

California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell announced Sunday she is leaving her job, becoming the second top-ranking health official in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration to depart during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Angell has been one of the most visible California officials during the pandemic, the public health crisis that has killed more than 10,000 Californians since March.

She frequently appears alongside Newsom during his press conferences. In addition to leading the Department of Public Health, she also served as the State Public Health officer.

Newsom on Monday plans to appoint Sandra Shewry, an executive at the nonprofit California Health Care Foundation, to replace Angell as acting director of the Department of Public Health, Health and Human Services Agency spokeswoman Kate Folmar wrote in an email to reporters.

Dr. Erica Pan, whom Newsom appointed state epidemiologist in June, will become the acting state public health officer.

Newsom released a one-sentence statement Sunday evening thanking Angell for her service during the pandemic and focus on health equity.

Angell did not give a reason for leaving in a note to her staff Sunday and Health and Folmar declined to provide more information.

In the letter, Angell thanked her colleagues for their work fighting the coronavirus and said she was honored to be the first Latina to serve in her role.

“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,” Angell wrote. “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.”

Angell previously served as deputy commissioner for prevention and primary care at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene from 2014 to 2019.

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“I am grateful to Dr. Angell for her service to the people of California during this unprecedented public health crisis,” Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a written statement. “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.”

Her departure follows that of Dr. Charity Dean, who served as assistant director of the Department of Public Health. Dean announced her resignation in June and officially left her role in July. In her resignation letter, Dean said she was moving on to a “new adventure,” but did not give further details.

Angell’s announcement also comes two days after Ghaly announced a data error that resulted in a significant undercount of coronavirus cases was caused by human errors and a server outage affecting the state’s infectious disease reporting database.

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