Arizona DepartmentOf HealthDr. Cara ChristIs leavingThe state Health DepartmentAugust
Christ has been named chief medical officer forInsurance Blue Cross Blue ShieldArizona. Her last day at ADHS is Aug. 27.
Christ was the leading public health figure in Arizona throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, advising state leaders on health issues and working on programs forTesting, hospital capacity, and vaccinations.
On Tuesday ChristAccording to the state’s guidelines, they would be adjusted in accordance with federal recommendations for people to wear masks indoors in counties with higher COVID-19 transmission rates and for people to wear face masks in schools, regardless of vaccination status and community transmission.
In a Wednesday interview with The Arizona Republic, she stated that the new job was in the works. “for a little while.”She is not leaving because of any disagreements with the Governor’s Office,She said.
“It’s an incredible opportunity that just was too good to pass up,” she said. “But I’ve been here for so long … I love public health, I love working with the Governor’s Office, I love our partners and stakeholders and our mission, so it’s really hard to leave this team.”
Christ said the state health department worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield on its opioid action plan, its health improvement plan, and during the pandemic, at the mass vaccination site at State Farm Stadium. She said company officials approached her about the job opportunity.
As health director, Christ was the target of frequent criticism from all sides for her actions during COVID-19. She was chastised by some public health analysts and doctors for not doing enough to speak up to the governor around issues such as mask mandates, mitigation measures such as closing businesses and what safety steps should be required in schools.
She said she also often heard disapproval from the other side, from people who thought Arizona’s measures were too extreme and were harming people.
CDC, ADHS:Masks recommended again for indoor use in many Arizona counties, all schools
“We were dealing with a virus that we hadn’t seen before but kept changing the rules on us. I think we made decisions based upon the data available at the time, and we felt that this would keep everyone in Arizona safe.” she said.
“The thing that we take a little bit of solace in is that we got equal criticism from both sides: we didn’t do enough, or we did too much, so we must be somewhere right in the middle.”
Hospitalizations and cases are not uncommon. forCOVID-19 is on the rise in Arizona ChristShe said that it was a great time. for the transition and doesn’t know that COVID-19 ever will really go away.
“There’s always a lot to deal with in public health, so I think I would feel badly about leaving at any time,”She said. “We were able to successfully run the mass vaccination sites and get people vaccinated. I feel really good about where we are with the access to vaccines in Arizona. It’s readily accessible, people can go get it for free, same day. That’s really the biggest tool that’s going to help end this pandemic.”
ChristShe said that she believes cases will continue increasing since the virusHighly contagious, and there are still people who aren’t fully vaccinated.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 45% of Arizonans had been fully vaccinated by Wednesday. This compares to 49% of all Americans. forDisease Control and Prevention
In her last weeks as director ChristShe stated that she is determined to spread the message about getting vaccinated.
The governor’s office will likely start looking to recruit her replacement, she said, and may put in an interim director in the meantime.
“Whoever follows me as the director, I think whoever comes is going to be incredibly lucky. They’ve got a fantastic team and there’s no better job than trying to ensure the health and wellness of Arizonans.”
ADHS director since 2015
Christ has led ADHS since 2015 and held other positions in the department since 2008. She will be the longest-serving director the department has had as of Aug. 13, according to the Governor’s Office.
“When Cara Christ became a doctor, she did it to help others and save lives,” Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement. “That’s exactly what she’s done. She dedicated countless hours to protecting millions of Arizonans from the COVID19 pandemic — and she’s done it with grace, stability and confidence.”
Before the pandemic, Christ had led efforts to create an opioid action plan for Arizona, including training programs, an online dashboard and training for law enforcement. She also focused on maternal mortality issues and led Arizona’s responses to previous outbreaks. She led the health department to complete Arizona’s first state health improvement plan.
“Honestly, I don’t want to go. I absolutely love working with the team here. I love the Governor’s Office team,” she said. “I knew that it was a time-limited job because it’s an appointed position and it usually changes when a new administration comes in. I’ve just been incredibly lucky to be in the job as long as I have been.”
Christ said she’s looking forward to being able to spend more time with her three children after a year and a half of long work hours, including some weekends working at vaccination sites.
She said she hopes the pandemic illustrated the importance of public health, which often operates more in the background and less in the public eye.
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Christ will start her new job on August 30 and will work on medical policy and relations with providers as well as issues such as affordability, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona president and CEO Pam Kehaly said.
“Even before the pandemic, Dr. Christ had a reputation for thinking big, approaching health strategically and leveraging the best of medicine and science to improve life and health for Arizonans,”Kehaly stated in a statement.
Reach the reporter at [email protected] or at 602-444-4282. Follow her on Twitter @alisteinbach.
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