Rochelle Walensky, who played key role in Covid response, resigns as CDC chief


Rochelle Walensky, who played a key role in the Biden administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, announced that she will step down as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

came as an announcement World Health Organization Said on Friday that Kovid is no longer a global emergency. Walensky said the waning of the pandemic was a good time for the transition.

Walensky’s last day will be June 30, CDC officials said, and an interim director was not immediately named. She sent a resignation letter to Joe Biden and announced the decision at a CDC staff meeting.

Walensky, 54, has been director of the agency for more than two years, and the announcement took many health experts by surprise. In her letter to Biden, she expressed “mixed feelings” about the decision and did not explain why she was stepping down, but said the nation was at a moment of change as emergency declarations ended.

“I have never been more proud of what I have accomplished in my professional career,” he wrote.

The US public health emergency will end next week. Deaths in the US are at their lowest level since the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020.

Walensky, previously an infectious disease specialist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, had no experience running a government health agency when she was sworn in to lead the $12 billion federal agency responsible for keeping Americans It was charged with protecting against disease outbreaks and other public health threats.

At the time of his arrival, more than 400,000 US Covid deaths had been reported, and states were scrambling to obtain supplies of new vaccines. Morale at the CDC was abysmal. The Trump administration had marginalized the agency, with the White House taking over the government’s messaging about the pandemic and sometimes opposing or undermining what the CDC wanted to do.

“No CDC director in history has faced more challenges on the job,” said Jason Schwartz, a health policy expert at the Yale School of Public Health.

The CDC gained prominence in government messaging — though even under Biden, the White House remained center stage in handling the response, Schwartz said.

She is visiting at a time when the national Covid death toll is around 1.1 million. Reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all down from the previous months.

At the CDC, Walensky started a Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analysis and took steps to modernize data collection and analysis. Last year, she launched a reorganization to make the agency more nimble and improve communication with the public.

In a statement, Biden said Walensky “leaves the CDC a stronger institution that is better positioned to meet health threats and protect Americans”.

White House Chief of Staff, Jeff Zients, praised her performance, saying that “her creativity, skill and expertise, and pure grit were essential to our effective response and a historic recovery”.

There were stumbling blocks during his tenure as well.

In the spring of 2021, Walensky said fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks in many settings, only to reverse course as the then-new Delta variant spread. In December 2021, the agency’s decision to shorten the isolation and quarantine period surprised many and caused confusion.

In addition, Walensky and other US officials were criticized last year for not being aggressive enough against an emerging mppox outbreak that faded in late summer and fall.

Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Brown University School of Public Health, is concerned that the proposed reforms won’t happen without Walensky to drive them.

“The CDC is finished. They have been working round the clock for three years non-stop and with little gratitude,” she said. “For a leadership change in the middle of all this… I can’t imagine that change The wind doesn’t blow out of the sails.”

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