Dr. Cara Christ, Director Arizona Department of Health Services, speaks during press conference update on COVID-19 in Arizona at the Arizona Commerce Authority Conference Center in Phoenix, Ariz. on July 30, 2020.
Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ is leaving her post next month, as the state contends with a growing number of COVID-19 cases, to take a job in the private sector.
Gov. Doug Ducey announced that Christ would be leaving the position on August 27 to become chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona. Christ leaves as the longest-serving director of the state’s public health agency
“It has been an honor to lead the Arizona Department of Health Services and work to keep Arizonans of all ages, backgrounds and unique needs healthy and safe,” Christ said in a press release. “I’m so proud to have been a part of this administration, and I thank Governor Ducey for entrusting me with responsibility for public health in Arizona and for working with me closely in the state’s response to COVID-19.”
The announcement also comes on the heels of a disagreement between Ducey and the Centers for Disease Control, which issued new guidelines on Tuesday for masking as COVID cases continue to rise in Arizona and across the country.
Ducey lashed out at the federal government, calling it “unnecessary and unhelpful” and criticizing the new recommendations as self-defeating. However, Christ said ADHS would update its guidelines on masking to fall in line with CDC recommendations. That means the state is asking people to wear masks in schools and in enclosed public spaces, regardless of whether they’ve been fully vaccinated.
However, masking though remains strictly voluntary because of new state laws Ducey signed this year prohibiting mask mandates, including in schools.
Christ and Ducey have not always seen eye-to-eye on issues related to COVID mitigation. Earlier this month, Christ said that schools should be able to quarantine unvaccinated students who have been exposed to COVID-19, something that Ducey said schools should not be allowed to do.
“There is no gap between Dr. Christ and the Governor on COVID policy,” Ducey spokesman C.J. Karamargin said when asked if the departure was due to differences between the Governor and Christ.
Christ oversaw ADHS’s implementation of COVID mitigation measures and the statewide vaccine rollout.
Currently, the state is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases, largely from unvaccinated people that health experts say is leading the state to a third surge. In her most recent media briefing, Christ urged masking and the vaccine as the most effective mitigation strategies.
Christ has been at the Department for 13 years and has been the director for six years.
ADHS did not respond to questions from the Mirror about how the transition to a new director will take place. Ducey has not announced who will replace Christ.
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