Top CDC official who warned of pandemic disruption will resign

A senior health official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who was one of the first to publicly sound the alarm about the coronavirus pandemic said Friday that she will resign next week.

In an email to colleagues seen by The Hill, Nancy Messonnier said her resignation is effective May 14 and that she will become executive director of pandemics and health systems at the Palo Alto-based Skoll Foundation.

Messonnier's resignation was first reported by The Washington Post.


"My family and I have determined that now is the best time for me to transition to a new phase of my career," she wrote. "CDC has provided me many meaningful, rewarding, and challenging opportunities to grow intellectually and mature as a public health leader."

Messonnier garnered national attention last year when she contradicted the White House's efforts to dismiss the severity of the novel coronavirus, which was spreading rapidly overseas.

On Feb. 25, 2020, Messonnier warned that the U.S. should prepare for a "severe" disruption to everyday life.

“It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses," she said at the time. “Disruption to everyday life might be severe."

Her remarks reportedly sparked outrage in the White House, with former President TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE nearly firing Messonnier.

A little more than a week later, Messonnier warned older Americans to stockpile supplies and avoid crowds and unnecessary travel.


Her prognostications reportedly led her to fall out of favor with the Trump White House, and soon after she stopped making public appearances.

When asked about Messonnier during a White House briefing Friday, CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyOvernight Health Care: Biden touts 300 million vaccine doses in 150 days | Biden warns of 'potentially deadlier' delta variant | Public option fades with little outcry from progressives Biden warns of 'potentially deadlier' delta variant, urges public to get vaccine Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing MORE said she wants "to wish her the best in her future endeavors" but declined to elaborate.

Messonnier had reportedly recently been reassigned from leading the agency's COVID-19 vaccine task force.

She did not respond to a request for comment Friday, and her email has an out of office message.

Messonnier in 2016 began serving as director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, which is responsible for managing influenza and other respiratory threats.

"I am especially grateful for the time, talent, and energy that so many of you gave over the past 16 months," Messonnier wrote in her email to colleagues Friday. "Together and in collaboration with our partners across public health and the federal, state, tribal, local and territorial government, we achieved incredible things, including deploying multiple vaccines in under one year and building the information infrastructure to provide real-time vaccination coverage and vaccine safety data. These accomplishments have been critical to the control of the pandemic and will also serve the American people and public health well into the future."

Reid Wilson contributed.