Patrick Semansky / AP
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a senior respiratory disease officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was among the first to warn the U.S. public about how much a pandemic will change everyday life, is stepping down from the agency.
She announced this by email to staff on Friday, as she first reported Washington Post. Her last day will be May 14th.
“My family and I have determined that now is the best time for me to move to a new phase of my career,” she wrote.
Messonnier has worked for the CDC for more than 25 years, moving to the role of director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases 2016. Since the end of 2019, she has headed the COVID-19 working group, but was recently redeployed from that post.
“Dr. Messonnier was a true hero and throughout her public health career she was the nation’s public health manager. During this pandemic and through her decades-long career she made a significant contribution and left behind a strong strength of leadership and courage in everything she did. “, said the head of the CDC, dr. Rochelle Walensky at the White House COVID-19 response team briefing, declining to comment further.
Messonnier stood out in public because of his warnings about the coronavirus in early 2020.
At a White House press briefing in late February, when the country had barely more than a dozen reported cases of the virus, Messonnier warned that there was likely to be community expansion and that “disruption to daily life could be serious.”
“It’s not so much a question of whether it will happen again, but more of a question of exactly when it will happen and how many people in this country will have serious illnesses,” she said.
At the time, her words about the pandemic were among the strongest so far from the Trump administration, which was still publicly downplaying the seriousness of the situation. Stocks collapsed. Wall Street Journal later reported that then-President Donald Trump threatened to fire Messonnier soon after.
The next day, Trump announced that he would appoint a vice president for the government’s response, and he famously predicted that the then reported 15 cases would “drop to zero within a few days.”
Messonnier did not appear at any further briefings at the White House, although she continued with other public appearances, including briefings at the CDC and interview for NPR.
In her resignation announcement, Messonnier reportedly said she would become executive director of pandemic and public health at the Skoll Foundation, a private organization founded by Jeff Skoll, eBay’s first president. The Skoll Foundation is a sponsor of the NPR.