Washington — Dr. Rochelle Walensky is stepping down as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), President Biden said in a statement Friday. The CDC said she will leave the agency at the end of June.
Walensky has overseen the agency responsible for much of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic since the early days of the Biden administration in 2021. Her departure comes as the U.S. isrelated to the pandemic, and on the same day the World Health Organization to the global health emergency from COVID-19.
“Dr. Walensky has saved lives with her steadfast and unwavering focus on the health of every American,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “As director of the CDC, she led a complex organization on the frontlines of a once-in-a-generation pandemic with honesty and integrity. She marshaled our finest scientists and public health experts to turn the tide on the urgent crises we’ve faced. Dr. Walensky leaves CDC a stronger institution, better positioned to confront health threats and protect Americans. We have all benefited from her service and dedication to public health, and I wish her the best in her next chapter.”
It’s not clear what Walensky, 54, will do next, or who the president might name to replace her. Walensky’s replacement won’t require Senate confirmation if appointed before Jan. 20, 2025, when aby Congress takes effect. Before becoming CDC director, Walensky was chief of the infectious disease division at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School.
“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 released by the CDC. “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 was a strong proponent of COVID-19 vaccines and masking, a position that earned her some criticism from conservatives. She later drew pushback from some progressives for loosening masking and testing guidance.
Last summer, Walensky announced, saying it fell short of responding to the virus and needs to be more nimble. The changes included staffing moves and efforts to speed up data releases.
“To be frank, we are responsible for some pretty dramatic, pretty public mistakes, from testing, to data, to communications,” Walensky said in August 2022. “As an agency, even with all the terrific work we do, we still suffer the consequences from these mistakes.”