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.