by Chhavi Madaan | 2020-08-12

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, a lot of state and local public health officials around the U.S. have resigned or have been fired. Kaiser Health News service and the Associated Press have reviewed and found at least 49 state and public health officials who have resigned, retired, or been fired since April.

The latest to add in the list is California’s public health director, Dr. Sonia Angell, who quit over the weekend without giving any reason behind her resignation.

Governor’s statements

Gov. Gavin Newsom dodged the questions when asked about the sudden resignation of the California Health Director even though he stressed the importance of transparency and accountability. He said that decisions were made and they were moving forward with it. According to him, Dr. Sonia Angell wrote a resignation letter and he accepted it as all are accountable in their respected roles for what happens underneath them.

Newsom said that he and Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency have made some changes in the state’s leadership team. Dr. Angell’s position will now be split by two people, Dr. Erica Pan and Dr. Sandra Shewry. Dr. Erica Pan who was recently appointed as state epidemiologist will be the acting state public health officer. Vice president of external engagement for the California Health Care Foundation, Sandra Shewry, will be acting as the health director of the health and human services department.

Test Data Controversy

All this occurred due to computer system failure which led to the undercounting of COVID-19 cases in the state. The county and state health officials revealed that there was a data error that led to a lag in the reporting of about 300,000 coronavirus test results. He said that the backlog has been resolved and the state will be able to update the virus in the next two or three days. The backlog in the data was announced last week by Ghaly which affected the California Reportable Disease Information Exchange, known as CalREDIE.

Newsom announced that the newly added data won’t change the positive trends. The state would recalculate the test positivity rate after the counties will finish processing the backlogged data and information about how widespread the virus is. As of now, the state’s hospitalization has decreased by 19% and ICU admission by 13%. All this data would help to determine when schools and businesses can reopen and which counties will stay on the state’s “county watch” list.

According to the state data, more than 10,300 people have died from the coronavirus, with the majority in Los Angeles County and California having more than 560,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. Newsom wants that the state should improve its IT system used for reporting infectious diseases.

Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials said that all these departures are making the bad situation worse, as it was the time when the U.S. needs good public health leadership the most. He said that they can’t afford to hit the pause button while moving at breakneck speed to stop a pandemic. According to him, many of the arguments look like a political divide rather than a health divide.

Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Stay Tuned.





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