Angell, Calif. health department director, resigns following COVID-19 glitch

Dr. Sonia Angell, the director of the California Department of Public Health, abruptly resigned Sunday night.

Dr. Sonia Angell, the director of the California Department of Public Health, resigned Sunday following a computer glitch that caused thousands of coronavirus cases to go unreported. 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Angell did not last a year on the job, having served in the position since October 2019. 


The health department said that Governor Gavin Newsom will appoint two people to fill Angell’s role. Sandra Shrewy will take over as acting California Department of Public Health Director and Dr. Erica Pan will serve as acting State Public Health Officer. 

“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,” Newsom said in a statement. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, a fixture on Newsom’s pandemic team, also thanked Angell for her work to combat COVID-19. 

“I am grateful to Dr. Angell for her service to the people of California during this unprecedented public health crisis,” Ghaly said. “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.” 

Angell sent the following resignation letter to her staff on Sunday: 

Dear California Department of Public Health Colleagues, 

Since I joined this Department as Director and State Public Health Officer in October 2019, we have been responding to emergencies, from E-cigarette and Vaping Associated Lung Injury, to the Public Safety Power Shutoffs and wildfires, and now to a global infectious disease pandemic. We have done all this, even as we have continued to deliver on the Department’s core public health functions. It is with deep appreciation and respect for all of this work that I share with you my own plans to depart from my position, effective today.

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.

Through Secretary Ghaly and our Department’s Chief Deputy Directors, Susan Fanelli and Brandon Nunes, plans are in a place for a smooth leadership transition. 

In Solidarity,


Sonia Angell, MD MPH

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