covid-19 /

Rochelle Walensky Resigns as CDC Director

The national COVID-19 public health emergency expires next week

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Director Rochelle Walensky will step down at the end of June.

Walensky joined the agency officially as its 19th director on Jan. 20, 2021. At the time, the United States was almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Dr. Walensky has saved lives with her steadfast and unwavering focus on the health of every American,” said President Joe Biden in a May 5 press release. “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.”

In addition to responding to the COVID-19 national health emergency declaration, Walensky led the federal agency as it responded to the outbreak of Money Pox. The illness was detected for the first time outside of Africa in Europe and North America in the spring of 2022 largely among communities of gay and bisexual men.

Over three years after enacting federal emergency powers in response to the global outbreak of COVID-19, the government terminated its national emergency declaration on April 10. The action formally recognized the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, although many restrictions on travel and personal conduct had already been lifted by individual states. 

The World Health Organization followed suit on May 5, calling COVID-19 “an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.”

The federal COVID-19 public health emergency is set to expire on May 11. 

“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 wrote in a letter to the president, according to CBS News.  

Neither Walensky nor the CDC has revealed what she will do after parting ways with the agency. 

Prior to joining the CDC, Walensky was the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases of Massachusetts General Hospital from 2017- 2020. She also taught at Harvard Medical School. 

“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,” said Walensky. “I have never been prouder of anything I have done in my professional career.”

It is unclear who will be tapped to take over as CDC director. As long as a candidate is appointed by Jan. 20, 2025, he or she will not need to be confirmed by the Senate.

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