Sacramento County Health Director Dr. Beilenson resigns citing family emergencies

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Sacramento County’s health director confirmed Wednesday he has resigned.

Dr. Peter Beilenson and his wife have decided to return to their former home in Baltimore, citing what he told FOX40 are two overlapping family emergencies.

Beilenson has served in the position for the past two and a half years and has overseen how the county has handled the COVID-19 pandemic since March.

The health director said his resignation is not the result of the pressure of the job.

“So, for 30 years, I’ve been a local health official in Baltimore in Howard County and now in Sacramento, and I’ve got death threats at all locations. So, I’m used to controversy and just kind of let it fly over my head,” Dr. Beilenson told FOX40 in a Wednesday Zoom call. “I’m sorry that I’m having to leave in the middle of COVID, or towards the tail end of COVID anyway. But our public health director, Olivia Kasirye, does a great job.”

Sacramento County, along with much of the nation, has been experiencing rising cases of COVID-19. On Monday, Dr. Beilenson told FOX40 the county had hit 80% hospital capacity. 

“The issue is we have about five more weeks where we got to really crack down and not gather outside of our family households, period, end of sentence,” he said.

Back in October, Calaveras County’s public health officer, Dr. Dean Kelaita, left his post after 20 years due to what he said was “the current political climate.”

“In order to be effective, I have always strived to assist community leaders and decision makers by providing unvarnished medical and scientific information, as well as technical expertise unbiased by subjectivity or partisan influence. Under the current political climate, this is no longer possible,” Dr. Kelaita wrote in a statement.

“You know, you like to say it’s data driven and science driven. But for a variety of reasons, it was very, very politicized this year, I think more than many years,” Beilenson said.

Beilenson also said his resignation has nothing to do with a controversial term he used during a Sacramento County Board of Supervisors meeting just two weeks ago.

At the time, Beilenson was speaking out in favor of a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis in Sacramento County. During his remarks, he referred to Asian Americans as “yellow folks.”

He later apologized, telling FOX40, “I realize that I was insensitive and apologize profusely to the API communities.” Since then, he said he has spoken with Asian American and Pacific Islander community members and they forgave him.

Sacramento County officials say they are now in the process of choosing a replacement.

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