State Watch

California public health chief quits suddenly

California’s top public health expert quit abruptly Sunday afternoon amid questions about the accuracy of the number of coronavirus cases the state had reported in recent weeks.

In an email to staffers, California Department of Public Health Director Sonia Angell said she would leave her position, effective immediately.

“I remain consistently impressed and humbled by the expertise, commitment, passion and kindness demonstrated by all of you daily,” Angell told colleagues. “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.”

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California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomCalifornia plans to review coronavirus vaccine independently OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds | Trump reverses course, approving assistance for California wildfires | Climate change, national security among topics for final Trump-Biden debate Trump reverses course, approving assistance for California wildfires MORE (D) will appoint Sandra Shewry, a senior executive at the California Health Care Foundation, as acting director of the Department of Public Health. He will tap Erica Pan, the former director of the division of communicable disease control and prevention at Benioff Children’s Hospital of Oakland, as the state’s acting public health officer.

Angell and Newsom did not specify the reason for her sudden exit.

The leadership shakeup comes just days after data glitches delayed processing of up to 300,000 records related to the virus. The Los Angeles Times reported that two separate errors held up the reporting of test results, potentially leading to a significant undercounting of new coronavirus cases in one of the hardest-hit states in the country.

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Newsom last week expressed cautious optimism that the number of new cases confirmed on a daily basis were declining. Mark Ghaly, California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, said his agency was investigating what went wrong with the system.

More than a half-million people in California have been infected with the coronavirus, and the number of cases has risen substantially in recent weeks. In the past two weeks, 100,000 people have tested positive. More than 10,000 have died in California, and 6,800 people are still in the hospital, according to the state health department.