September 24 2021 03:30 pm

California’s top public health director out, no reason given

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The director of the California Department of Public Health resigned Sunday, according to a CDPH spokesperson. 

According to the CDPH, Dr. Sonia Angell, who became director in October 2019, announced her resignation in an email to staff — the email can be read in its entirety below. 

Her letter to staff, released by the California Health and Human Services Agency, did not give a specific reason for her departure.

Governor Gavin Newsom declined to elaborate on Angell’s departure during a news briefing on Tuesday.

“I try not to have personnel conversations in public, I don’t know that it serves a larger good,” Newsom said. “At the end of the day the buck stops with me, I’m accountable.”

In the interim, Sandra Shewry will be the acting California Department of Public Health director, and Dr. Erica Pan will be the acting State Public health officer.

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.

Governor Gavin Newsom

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, who gave a briefing Friday about the technical glitch that severely impacted California’s virus case count, also issued a statement about the resignation. 

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.

Dr. Mark Ghaly

Dr. Angell’s resignation comes on the heels of a technical glitch that severely impacted the coronavirus case count in some counties. 

In Sonoma County, health officials said the glitch could have caused about a third of cases to be missing. 

Ghaly said Monday the issue was fixed and the backlog of records has been cleared. Counties now have access to data they can process for planning and contact tracing.

“All in an urgent and thoughtful way, so we can make sure we support that commitment to data and science to continue to guide our way,” Ghaly said. 

Dr. Sonia Angell’s email can be read 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

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