California’s public health director resigned suddenly on Sunday night after unidentified failures in the state’s coronavirus reporting system created a backlog of at least 300,000 unreported cases.
Dr. Sonia Angell had held her position for less than a year and was one of the senior officials guiding the state’s coronavirus response. Angell announced her resignation in a Sunday email sent to staff at California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHSA) and released to the public.
The letter says in part:
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.
New! CA Dept of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell announces tonight she's leaving post, effective today. No reason given, but announcement comes as CA is slammed by resurgence, reaches grim marker of 10,000+ Covid-19 deaths, & acknowledged problems with data. Her letter: pic.twitter.com/wDyp11AQGm
— Carla Marinucci (@cmarinucci) August 10, 2020
Angell did not specify a reason for her departure, though it comes as the CHHSA is investigating a reporting flaw in its coronavirus monitoring system that missed hundreds of thousands of cases.
“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,” California Gov. Gavin Newsome said in a statement on Sunday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
CHHSA Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly added, “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.”
Ghaly announced the massive tracking discrepancy on Friday, saying that an antiquated reporting system combined with blunders by the government likely caused the backlog.
“Simply put, the CalREDIE system was not built for this volume of data,” Ghaly said. “In order to create a lasting solution, we are accelerating the development of a new laboratory reporting system for COVID-19.”
Ghaly also promised accountability for those involved in the situation.