Top CDC official resigns from post following reassignment

Health

POLITICO 07 May, 2021 - 10:45am 40 views

Nancy Messonnier had drawn former President Donald Trump’s ire last year for her early warning about the pandemic.

By ERIN BANCO and ADAM CANCRYN

Messonnier’s resignation comes two weeks after she had been reassigned within the CDC from her position heading the agency's Covid-19 vaccine task force, as first reported by POLITICO. Following her reassignment, Messonnier went on leave, which senior administration officials described as an unplanned vacation.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky offered well wishes for Messonnier on Friday but did not elaborate further on the circumstances of her departure.

"Over this pandemic and through a many-decade career she's made significant contributions, and she leaves behind a strong force of leadership and courage in all that she has done," Walensky said during a press conference Friday.

Messonnier will join the Skoll Foundation on June 1, as the executive director for Pandemics and Health Systems, the foundation confirmed to POLITICO. She will lead the organization's work on Covid-19 and preparedness for future infectious disease outbreaks.

The Washington Post first reported Messonnier's resignation Friday morning.

Messonnier had spent more than 20 years at the CDC as a prominent respiratory disease expert. She became a central figure in the Trump administration’s chaotic early coronavirus response last February, when she told reporters the coronavirus outbreak would soon change the nation’s way of life.

“It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen,” she said at the time, two weeks before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. Her dire warning sent the stock market spiraling and contradicted assurances from top Trump appointees, catching the White House off guard.

An infuriated former President Donald Trump threatened to fire her, leading to the halt of regular CDC press briefings on the crisis and Messonnier's sidelining from the administration's communications.

Mesonnier was expected to reemerge in the wake of President Joe Biden's election, as part of the new administration's effort to put top scientists at the forefront of the Covid response and restore public trust in the federal government. But she clashed at times with Biden officials over decision-making, said two people familiar with the matter. The White House has not resumed regular CDC briefings, instead putting its own Covid-19 response team in charge of public messaging. Walensky has regularly participated in those briefings.

Messonnier's recent reassignment came the day before the agency’s advisory panel on immunizations was set to meet to decide whether to lift a pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. She had played a prominent role in the agency’s work investigating the rare but severe blood clots that emerged in multiple individuals after vaccination. Federal officials have since lifted their recommend pause on use of the vaccine.

Messonnier's position was absorbed into the CDC’s incident management response team headed by Walensky and Henry Walke, the director of the agency's Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections.

As of two weeks ago, Messonnier was still copied on agency emails and was referred to as an "adviser" of Walensky, two officials familiar with the matter said.

Read full article at POLITICO

CDC Official Who Warned Americans Coronavirus Could Cause 'Severe' Disruption Resigns

NPR 07 May, 2021 - 11:48am

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the top respiratory disease official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who was among the first to warn the American public about how much the pandemic would change everyday life, is stepping down from the agency.

She made the announcement in an email to staff Friday, as first reported by The Washington Post. Her last day will be May 14.

"My family and I have determined that now is the best time for me to transition to a new phase of my career," she wrote.

Messonnier had worked for the CDC for more than 25 years, ascending to her role as director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases in 2016. Since late 2019, she had headed the agency's COVID-19 task force, but she was recently reassigned from that post.

"Dr. Messonnier has been a true hero, and through her career in terms of public health she's been a steward of public health for the nation. Over this pandemic and through her many-decade career, she's made significant contributions, and she leaves behind a strong force of leadership and courage in all that she's done," CDC chief Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a Friday briefing of the White House COVID-19 Response Team, declining to comment further.

Messonnier rose to public prominence for her 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 community spread would be likely and that "disruption to everyday life might be severe."

"It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," she said.

At the time, her words about the pandemic were among the strongest yet from the Trump administration, which was still publicly downplaying the severity of the situation. Stocks tumbled. The Wall Street Journal later reported that then-President Donald Trump threatened to fire Messonnier shortly afterward.

The next day, Trump announced he was putting the vice president in charge of the government's response and famously predicted that what were then 15 reported cases "within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero."

Messonnier did not appear at any further White House briefings, though she continued to make other public appearances, including briefings at the CDC and an interview with NPR.

In her resignation announcement, Messonnier reportedly said she will become the executive director for pandemic and public health systems at the Skoll Foundation, a private organization founded by Jeff Skoll, the first president of eBay. The Skoll Foundation is an NPR sponsor.

CDC's Nancy Messonnier, who warned coronavirus would cause 'severe' disruption, resigns

Fox News 07 May, 2021 - 11:04am

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North Carolina Republican slams the Biden administration's handling of school reopenings on 'The Story'

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official who first warned last February "disruption to everyday life may be severe" as a result of coronavirus spread, is resigning. Messonnier reportedly sent an email to staff indicating that her last day would be May 14 and that she was taking on a new role with the nonprofit Skoll Foundation.

When asked during Friday’s White House COVID-19 briefing to elaborate further on Messonnier’s decision, agency director Dr. Rochelle Walensky heaped praise on her career and achievements and wished her well, but declined to comment.  

"My family and I have determined that now is the best time for me to transition to a new phase of my career," Messonnier reportedly penned to colleagues, according to the New York Times.

Messonnier had been the agency’s director of the National Center for Immunization and Diseases and was participating in regular briefings regarding the coronavirus when the illness first emerged. In the now-infamous Feb. 25, 2020 briefing, Messonnier had said that Americans should begin preparing for a potential outbreak while other officials continued relaying that the immediate threat to the public remained low.

"As more and more countries experience community spread, successful containment at our borders becomes harder and harder," she had said during the briefing. "Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illness."

She had warned that the virus moves "quite rapidly," although at the time the World Health Organization (WHO) was still more than a week away from declaring the outbreak a pandemic.

"I understand this whole situation may seem overwhelming and that disruption to everyday life may be severe, but these are things people need to start thinking about now," she had said.

President Trump was reportedly unhappy with how the message impacted the stock market, and allegations emerged that she was removed from public-facing briefings.

The New York Times reports that her resignation could signal the first in a series of changes coming at the agency under Walensky.

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CDC official who issued early warnings about the threat of Covid will resign

CNBC 07 May, 2021 - 10:03am

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the health expert who was among the first to sound alarms about the threat posed to the U.S. by the coronavirus, is resigning from her role at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency's director confirmed Friday.

Messonnier "leaves behind a strong force of leadership and courage in all that she's done," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing. "I want to wish her the best in her future endeavors."

Walensky did not address a reporter's question asking why Messonnier was recently reassigned from her role leading the CDC's Covid vaccine task force.

Messonnier, who had served as director of the agency's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases since 2016, will resign from the agency effective May 14, multiple outlets reported Friday.

She will take on a new role as executive director for pandemic and public health systems at the Skoll Foundation, a California-based organization, she reportedly told colleagues in an email.

Walensky received Messonnier's resignation Friday morning, CDC spokesman Jason McDonald told CNBC.

The resignation was first reported by The Washington Post.

In early 2020, when fewer than 100 Covid cases had been reported in the U.S., Messonnier urged the nation to start preparing for a massive outbreak that would drastically affect normal life.

"I understand this whole situation may seem overwhelming and that disruption to everyday life may be severe. But these are things that people need to start thinking about now," Messonnier said in February 2020.

Messonnier's stark warnings contrasted sharply with then-President Donald Trump's messaging at the same time, prompting him to threaten to fire her, outlets have reported.

The former president had incorrectly tried to assure the nation that the small number of U.S. Covid cases "within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero" and will disappear "like a miracle."

More than 32,606,724 Covid infections have been reported in the U.S., and at least 580,076 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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Top CDC official who warned of pandemic disruption will resign

The Hill 07 May, 2021 - 10:00am

Messonnier's resignation was first reported by The Washington Post.

Messonnier garnered national attention last year when she contradicted the White House's efforts to dismiss the severity of the novel coronavirus, which was spreading rapidly overseas.

On Feb. 25, 2020, Messonnier warned that the U.S. should prepare for a "severe" disruption to everyday life.

“It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses," she said at the time. “Disruption to everyday life might be severe."

A little more than a week later, Messonnier warned older Americans to stockpile supplies and avoid crowds and unnecessary travel.

Her prognostications reportedly led her to fall out of favor with the Trump White House, and soon after she stopped making public appearances.

She did not respond to a request for comment Friday, and her email has an out of office message.

Messonnier in 2016 began serving as director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, which is responsible for managing influenza and other respiratory threats.

"I am especially grateful for the time, talent, and energy that so many of you gave over the past 16 months," Messonnier wrote in her email to colleagues Friday. "Together and in collaboration with our partners across public health and the federal, state, tribal, local and territorial government, we achieved incredible things, including deploying multiple vaccines in under one year and building the information infrastructure to provide real-time vaccination coverage and vaccine safety data. These accomplishments have been critical to the control of the pandemic and will also serve the American people and public health well into the future."

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Senior U.S. CDC official Nancy Messonnier resigns from her position

Reuters 07 May, 2021 - 09:54am

Senior health official Nancy Messonnier has resigned from her position at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency's Director Rochelle Walensky said on Friday.

Messonnier, who warned the United States about the COVID-19 pandemic last year, has been the director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases since 2016.

"She has made significant contributions to public health and leaves behind a legacy of strong leadership and courage," Walensky said in an emailed statement.

Walensky said she had received Messonnier's resignation this morning.

Messonnier's resignation is effective May 14, the Washington Post reported earlier on Friday. (https://wapo.st/33oXqLi)

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CDC respiratory disease chief Nancy Messonnier, who warned of coronavirus threat, to resign

Axios 07 May, 2021 - 09:43am

CDC respiratory disease chief Nancy Messonnier, who last year was the first U.S. health official to alert Americans of the disruptions to everyday life that the coronavirus would cause, said she will resign on May 14, according to an email to colleagues on Friday obtained by the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Messonnier became a target of former President Trump after she contradicted White House messaging in February 2020 by warning that health experts expected the novel coronavirus to kill thousands of people in the U.S.

Context: Messonnier has directed the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases since 2016.

What they're saying: “My family and I have determined that now is the best time for me to transition to a new phase of my career,” she wrote in the email, which was reviewed by the Post.

Messonnier said in the email that she is leaving the agency to become executive director for pandemic and public health systems at the Palo Alto-based Skoll Foundation.

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A C.D.C. official who early on warned that the coronavirus would upend American lives resigns.

The New York Times 07 May, 2021 - 09:04am

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who famously warned the nation early last year that the coronavirus would upend their lives, resigned from her position at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.

Dr. Messonnier’s resignation is effective May 14. She is taking on a new role as an executive director at the Skoll Foundation, a philanthropical organization based in Palo Alto, Calif., she told staff in an email on Friday.

Her exit may augur more changes at the agency. Reports have circulated for weeks that the C.D.C.’s new director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, planned to completely reorganize the division Dr. Messonnier led.

“My family and I have determined that now is the best time for me to transition to a new phase of my career,” Dr. Messonnier wrote in the email to staff.

Dr. Messonnier began her career in public health in 1995 with a stint in the prestigious Epidemic Intelligence Service. She has since held a number of leadership posts in the C.D.C. Since 2016, she has served as director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, the C.D.C. division responsible for managing influenza and other respiratory threats.

In late 2019, she became the agency’s lead in responding to the coronavirus, and initially shared a stage with President Trump at briefings about the coronavirus.

She fell out of favor with President Trump and sent stocks tumbling after she sounded a dire alarm about the coronavirus, saying it would disrupt the lives of every American.

“It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,” she said on Feb. 25, just as Mr. Trump was boarding Air Force One in New Delhi for his flight home.

Soon after that, she stopped appearing at briefings of the White House and of the C.D.C.

Nancy Messonnier, the senior CDC official who first warned the US about the coronavirus pandemic, is resigning

Business Insider 07 May, 2021 - 12:00am

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"My family and I have determined that now is the best time for me to transition to a new phase of my career," she wrote in the email, according to The Post. "CDC has provided me many meaningful, rewarding, and challenging opportunities to grow intellectually and mature as a public health leader."

Messonnier, who is serving as the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, told her colleagues that her last day with the CDC will be May 14.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Messonnier provided regular briefings about the the virus. 

But after she told Americans that the spread of COVID-19 was inevitable, stocks started to plummet, Business Insider reported last year. 

Shortly thereafter, Messonnier's stopped, and then-President Donald Trump created the White House's coronavirus task force, led by then-Vice President Mike Pence.

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