California Public Health Officer Suddenly Resigns As State Recovers From Reporting Errors

California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer Dr. Sonia Angell (L) speaks as California Gov. Gavin Newsom (R) looks on during a news conference at the California Department of Public Health February 27, 2020 in Sacramento, CA.
Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In a move following several days of scrutiny over state errors that led to hundreds of thousands of backlogged coronavirus tests, California's public health officer and director of the Department of Public Health abruptly resigned late Sunday.

"I remain consistently impressed and humbled by the expertise, committment, passion and kindness demonstrated by all of you daily," Dr. Sonia Angell wrote in a letter sent to her colleagues at the Department of Public Health. "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."

Dr. Angell did not mention a reason for her decision to step down less than a year into her job, which she was appointed to in October.

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

The glitch, which left local health officials wondering about correct case counts in their regions, was connected to the failures of a computer server in late July and state officials in filing proper paperwork with a top testing lab. Health officials in several counties posted disclaimers to their coronavirus reporting sites after the glitch was revealed.

"We expect that over the next 24 to 48 hours that the backlog that is between 250,000 and 300,000 records will be resolved, giving us a better sense of the total number of tests that were delayed," Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a media briefing Friday.

Dr. Angell's resignation also comes as California battles a surge of new coronavirus cases following initial success in low case counts and deaths at the start of the pandemic.

Since then, California has been forced to roll back reopenings and tighten restrictions, close specific businesses known for close contact and add various counties back to the state's watch list.

California marked a grim milestone in the pandemic Friday, surpassing 10,000 coronavirus-related deaths after crossing the 500,000-case threshold just a few days earlier.

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting Sandra Shewry will be appointed as acting California Department of Public Health director and Dr. Erica Pan will assume the role of acting state public health officer.