After the previous state Department of Public Health director resigned over case count snafus, Gavin Newsom turns to his hometown health officer to fill the spot.
It’s been a big day at the revolving door of promotions to and from Sacramento state-level health positions. Just after it leaked that President-elect Joe Biden was picking California attorney general Xavier Becerra for secretary of Health and Human Services, we now learn via the SF Examiner that San Francisco’s health officer Dr. Tomás Aragón is being promoted to California Department of Public Health director. Aragón replaces Sonia Angell, who resigned in August after a technical glitch caused an undercounting of COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Aragón is not exactly a household name even here in San Francisco, but as Kaiser Health News explains, he was instrumental behind the scenes in crafting the first-in-the-nation shelter-in-place orders (as well as the stricter new orders we just went under). The Chronicle has a nice explainer on Aragón’s background — born and raised in the Mission to Nicaraguan parents, volunteered at SF General, went on to graduate from Harvard, and cut his teeth on a residency here in SF at peak of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
“I started my medical career with one pandemic, and I’ll probably end my career with another pandemic,” Aragón told the Chronicle over the summer.
Aragón takes over the DPH while the state is in full-blown crisis mode on coronavirus. California recorded nearly 25,000 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday alone, Newsom said at his press conference today, and the 7-day average of over the last week has been about 22,000 new cases daily. Aragón’s track record suggests he’s very inclined to tighten restriction even further, and he may not be a popular figure among small business owners.
“We wish Dr. Aragon well in his new state role. Our hope is that in this position he will find a way to consider small businesses when issuing statewide public health orders,” the San Francisco Independent Fitness Studio Coalition said in a statement. “We request that any health orders be announced with the actual science being used to create them and he consider how segments of an industry might remain open safely – even to the smallest degree. Blanket health orders that don’t consider all aspects of a certain industry and don’t consider options on how to keep them open are destroying California small business.”
Aragón does need state senate confirmation before taking office, and he’s expected to start the new position in January. The SF board of supervisors will appoint his replacement as San Francisco health officer.