CDC director Rochelle Walensky will step down in June

Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky departs after speaking before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on the All-Hazards Preparedness Act in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Thursday, April 4.

Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced on Friday that she would step down at the end of June, ending a tenure marked by repeated changes to adjust to an evolving coronavirus crisis.

Walensky gave no specific reason for their departure, but noted in a letter to President Joe Biden that the US is emerging from the emergency of the Covid-19 response.

“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 the letter.

“I took on this role at your request with the goal of putting the dark days of the pandemic behind us and moving the CDC — and public health — to a much better and more trusted place,” she said.

The health emergency in the US ends on Thursday. The World Health Organization declared the end of the global Covid public health emergency on Friday.

Biden thanked Walensky for her service in a statement.

“Dr. Walensky leaves the CDC with a stronger institution that is better positioned to meet health threats and protect Americans,” the president said.

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Walensky acknowledged in August 2022 that the CDC’s response to the pandemic was inadequate. She initiated a reorganization aimed at making the agency more responsive to disease threats and improving its communication of health advice to the public.

But the CDC still struggles to respond to public health threats because they have limited powers given a fragmented health care system. The agency will have less data to track Covid and new variants when the public health emergency ends because it cannot force states to report this information.

Walensky took charge of the ailing agency in early 2021 as the US rolled out its Covid vaccination campaign. She led the public health agency while the national pandemic response suffered repeated setbacks from the emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants.

Walensky also helped lead the US response to the sudden outbreak of MPOX in the summer of 2022.

She headed the Department of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and was a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School before joining the Biden administration. Walensky is an HIV expert.

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