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Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, will be resigning from the role next month. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, will be resigning from the role next month. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to step down from her role in June

Her resignation from the CDC was announced on the same day the WHO announced that COVID-19 is no longer a global emergency.

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Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who has held the role of director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for over two years, announced Friday she is resigning.

Her resignation is effective June 30, 2023.

Since officially being appointed to the role by President Joe Biden in January 2021, Walensky has led the CDC with the goal of transitioning the organization and the public toward a greater sense of normalcy. 

“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,” Walensky wrote in a statement.

She continued, “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.”

Walensky was brought in to raise morale, rebuild public trust, and improve its response to the pandemic. 

However, challenges persisted for the CDC and the nation as waves of dangerous, new coronavirus variants emerged and skepticism surrounding the vaccine ensued. 

In addition, the CDC also had to address a multinational mpox outbreak, contain the spread of Ebola in Uganda, and countless other infectious disease threats in countries around the globe. 

Walensky was brought in to raise morale, rebuild public trust, and improve its response to the pandemic.

To address the latter, Walensky launched Moving Forward, a wide-ranging set of reforms designed to strengthen the CDC communications and response operations. 

“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,” Walensky said. 

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

Prior to joining the CDC, Walensky served as Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital from 2017 to 2020, and was also a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School from 2012 to 2020.

In a statement, President Biden praised Walensky’s “steadfast and unwavering focus on the health of every American,” as well as her ability to lead “with honesty and integrity.”

“Dr. Walensky leaves CDC a strong institution, better positioned to confront health threats and protect Americans,” Biden added. 

The Next Chapter of the Pandemic

Walensky’s decision to move on from her role with the CDC coincides with the latest chapter of the coronavirus pandemic. 

On the same day that Walensky announced her departure from the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that COVID-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency. 

The announcement marked the end of a more than three-year ordeal that started with the WHO’s original designation in January 2020. 

At the time of Walensky’s arrival at the CDC about a year later, more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. were reported, and states were scrambling to access available vaccines.

The pandemic has seen various chapters — from the stay-at-home orders and quarantines to social distancing and mask mandates.

As the nation looked to turn the page, variants such as Delta and Omicron emerged, setting the nation back.

However, the CDC has maintained its position at the forefront of its efforts to provide the information needed to protect the public. 

COVID-related deaths in the U.S. are at their lowest point since the earliest days of the coronavirus outbreak, while reported cases and hospitalizations have also been seeing a downward trend. 

While the numbers have been seeing decreases, both CDC and WHO officials have also stressed that the pandemic isn’t over.

Currently, there has been no announcement of Walensky’s successor as CDC director. However, one thing is certain: the replacement will be tasked with navigating the next chapter of the COVID-19 pandemic — not the end. 

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