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California's public health director resigns as state deals with coronavirus data glitch

Angell’s departure comes as the state is dealing with the aftermath of the glitch in the data system that caused the error in under-reporting new COVID-19 cases.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's top public health official has stepped down. State officials confirmed California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell announced her resignation effective immediately.

According to state officials, in an email to her staff Sunday night, Dr. Angell did not give a reason for her resignation.

Angell’s departure comes as the state is dealing with the aftermath of the glitch in the data system that caused the error in under-reporting new COVID-19 cases.

Just a week ago, state officials reported the glitch caused up to 300,000 records to be backlogged, although not all of them were coronavirus cases and some could be duplicates. The problem also affected the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange, also known as CalREDIE, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said.

Angell was named the state health officer and California Department of Public Health Director in October 2019. She was the first Latina in this role. In an email sent to staff, she said she was, “proud to have served the Department, Administration and our state,” and, “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 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 in a statement 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."

The governor's office says Angell will be replaced by Sandra Shewry as acting California Department of Public Health Director and Dr. Erica Pan as acting State Public Health Officer.

Gov. Newsom is expected to publicly appoint her successors at Monday’s COVID-19 briefing at noon.

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

Sonia Angell, MD MPH

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