In the Midst of Pandemic, Top HHS and CDC Officials Resign

Resignation Letter

In the midst of an international pandemic, three high-profile public health officials are leaving government service.

On Friday, José Arrieta abruptly resigned from his position as chief information officer at the Department of Health and Human Services. According to Politico, Arrieta will stay on in his role for one month in order to help his replacement, who was not identified, transition into the role. Arrieta has served as CIO since May of 2019. Over the past four months, he has been in charge of HHS Protect, a federal program established earlier this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project aimed to have HHS tech officials build out their own surveillance and analytics system.

Since the program went live earlier this spring, HHS Protect has become the central clearing house for data reporting regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. The White House has relied on HHS to become the point on analytics reporting, bypassing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which raised alarms among many public health professionals, particularly those who have been critical of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, as well as inconsistent reporting of data.

Although Arrieta did not publicly disclose his post-HHS intentions, Politico reported that the civil servant plans to spend more time with his children. According to Federal News Network, which first reported that Arrieta was leaving his post, Arrieta planned to focus on helping his children who, like millions of others, will be participating in e-learning as many school systems remain closed for in-person learning during the pandemic.

“I want to spend time with kids, who like most kids are going to school online. This is a good opportunity to work with them because learning via Zoom isn’t easy for 5 and 8 year olds,” he said.

Regarding HHS Protect, Arrieta said the system has gotten to a point where it is fully functional with only a few small technical issues that remain to be addressed. FNN reported.

Brett Bruen, a former White House official with the Obama administration, praised Arrieta’s service to HHS.

“José is one of the most dynamic and innovative leaders in government. His loss will be deeply felt across not only HHS, but the whole interagency, as he was pioneering groundbreaking use of new technology in this and prior positions that pushed the public sector to work more effectively and efficiently,” Bruen told Politico.

In addition to Arrieta, two officials at the CDC are also resigning in order to launch their own company, USA Today reported. Kyle McGowan and Amanda Campbell, the chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, respectively, for CDC Director Robert Redfield will leave the federal agency in the midst of the pandemic to start their own consulting business. McGowan confirmed the departure and the plans in an email to USA Today, but did not elaborate on the kind of business the two would begin.

Both Campbell and McGowan are political appointees and their departure follows the widening divide between the White House and the CDC – a divide that led to the development of HHS Protect. McGowan said he intended to leave the CDC months ago, but stuck around to help the department during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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