California Public Health Chief Quits Amid Covid Data Snafu

(CN) — Amid a surge of coronavirus infections and deaths in California the state’s top health official announced her resignation Sunday.

Dr. Sonia Angell, appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom this past September as director of the California Department of Public Health, announced her resignation in a Sunday email to staff. She did not give a reason for the abrupt departure.

California’s public health director Sonia Angell resigned Aug. 9, effective immediately.

Angell’s resignation comes after several weeks of increasing infections across the Golden State.

Within a few months, California went from a model response that bent the curve on the spread of infections to the epicenter of pandemic in the United States.

In recent weeks, a computer error with a state reporting system that led to a backlog of 300,000 test results has marred counties’ estimates of confirmed infections from the virus, prompting health officials to call an undercount of the sick.

Angell had dual roles as the state public health officer, which she was appointed last October, and public health director.

In her resignation letter Angell said: “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.”

In a statement Newsom said, “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.”

California 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.”

Sandra Shewry will be appointed as acting public health director, and Dr. Erica Pan will fill in as acting state public health officer.

Before arriving in California this past September, Angell was a practicing physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital and assistant clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University in New York City. She notes in her resignation letter she was the first Latina to take the position.

The novel coronavirus has so far infected over 560,000 Californians and has killed over 10,000.

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