Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) chief medical advisor is hitting the exit amid the latest coronavirus surge in the state.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, a deputy director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Whitmer’s point person in the virus, is leaving for a job in the private sector, the Iron Mountain Daily News reported. Khaldun will be replaced by a bureaucrat who temporarily left her state job to work for the World Health Organization.
Via the paper:
She will be replaced at least temporarily by Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, an infectious diseases expert at the state Department of Health and Human Services who oversaw COVID-19 testing strategy. Bagdasarian, who will take over on Oct. 1, most recently has been on sabbatical to work with the World Health Organization on coronavirus planning.
“At the height of COVID-19, we stood side by side to keep our state safe through one of the most difficult periods in our lives,” Whitmer said.
Khaldun’s exit comes as cases are rising in the state. On Monday, 7,733 new cases were reported, according to Local 4, approaching levels seen during surges last fall and this spring.
“This work has been the honor of my life,” Khaldun said in the announcement.
Khaldun created controversy in August when she inadvertently acknowledged Whitmer was not strictly “following the science.”
The doctor was asked if she urged Whitmer to issue a statewide mandate requiring school children to be masked in the classroom.
The Detroit News reported:
“I have recommended that if a mask mandate were in place, and it were followed, it would likely decrease the spread of COVID-19 in schools,” Khaldun responded when asked specifically if she advised Whitmer and the director of the Department of Health and Human Services, Elizabeth Hertel, to impose a mask mandate for schools.
Then, Khaldun said her “lane” was to provide public health guidance and there are “many other things” to be considered. Asked what those things were, she responded that she couldn’t say “at this time.”
Reporters also asked state epidemiologist, Dr. Sarah Lyon-Callo, a similar question.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin intervened, responding, “I don’t know if that would be a question for Dr. Lyon-Callo to answer. So we’re probably going to have to get back to you,” WLNS reported.
Some critics have suggested recent polling, which shows the mandates unpopular, may be the reason Whitmer has not implemented the mandate.
Furthermore, the governor has repeatedly blamed the Michigan Supreme Court and Republican legislature for restricting her ability to issue the broad restriction. However, the Sixth District U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Whitmer possesses the authority to enact the mandate.
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Photo “Dr. Joneigh Khaldun” by Joneigh Khaldun.