CDC Director Rochelle Walensky Resigns as Pandemic Winds Down

FRIDAY, May 5, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced Friday that she will resign on June 30.

Her departure comes after a little more than two years on the job.

“The end of the COVID-19 public health emergency marks a tremendous transition for our country, for public health, and in my tenure as CDC Director,” Walensky said in an agency news release. “I took on this role, at your request, with the goal of leaving behind the dark days of the pandemic and moving CDC -- and public health -- forward into a much better and more trusted place.

“In the process, we saved and improved lives and protected the country and the world from the greatest infectious disease threat we have seen in over 100 years,” she added. “While at CDC, I had the true gift of meeting, working with, and giving voice to thousands of people at the agency who work 24/7 to worry about health and public health so that the rest of the nation does not have to. I have never been prouder of anything I have done in my professional career.”

An interim director has not yet been named, the Associated Press reported.

“Dr. Walensky has saved lives with her steadfast and unwavering focus on the health of every American,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “As director of the CDC, she led a complex organization on the front lines of a once-in-a-generation pandemic with honesty and integrity. Dr. Walensky leaves CDC a stronger institution, better positioned to confront health threats and protect Americans. We have all benefited from her service and dedication to public health, and I wish her the best in the next chapter.”

Walensky, 54, was previously an infectious diseases specialist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

On arriving at the CDC, Walensky’s experience did not include running a government health agency. Still, she did so in early 2021, taking over the Atlanta-based public health agency with its 12,000 employees and $12 billion budget.

While at the CDC, Walensky began a center for forecasting and outbreak analytics. She also began a reorganization of the agency last year to try to speed up its responses and improve its communication with the American public, the AP reported.

But among Walensky’s missteps were saying in spring 2021 that fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks in many settings, right before the Delta variant began spreading across the country, the AP reported. Some also questioned the decision in December 2021 to shorten isolation and quarantine times.

“Her creativity, skill and expertise, and pure grit, were essential to our effective response and an historic recovery that made life better for Americans across the country," White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients in a statement, the AP reported.

More information

The World Health Organization has also declared an end to the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SOURCES: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, May 5, 2023; U.S. White House, news release, May 5, 2023; Associated Press

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