State health officer resigns during pandemic

Published: May. 27, 2020 at 9:23 PM CDT
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State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte has resigned from her post. And it comes at a time when North Dakota is ramping up their testing efforts.

In her departure, there are two new personnel coming in.

Her direct replacement as state health officer will be Dr. Andrew Stahl, who has been playing a leadership role in the state’s COVID-19 Task Force. The other is a new position with an old name. The new chief health strategist will be Dr. Joshua Wynne, the interim president for the University of North Dakota.

This is all part of a new leadership tree that Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., said involves dividing up one job that had been treated as three.

“Having a single officer trying to manage the regulatory aspects of the state Health Department, the operational aspects of the state Health Department, and the strategic and forward looking aspects of that, that would prove to be an impossible task for anyone given the scale and the urgency and complexity of this,” Burgum said.

But the resignation’s timing is noteworthy.

The governor said that Tufte resigned as part of a desire to return to the private sector. Adding that the resignation letter was received early Wednesday, but personnel from his office say that the letter was dated for Tuesday.

This major shake-up comes of a time when the leadership tree is taking a new shape, so the governor was asked five separate times if her resignation was requested.

Burgum never gave a definitive “yes” or “no," simply responding that she resigned.

Nevertheless, the governor praised her in what she accomplished while serving the role.

“This time in the last three months, the incredible efforts by Mylynn and the Health Department, together with the National Guard and the other state agencies, all working together as a whole of government and as team North Dakota to scale up the capacity, whether it's in contact tracing or testing, it's been nothing short of heroic,” Burgum said.

Burgum said that she had mentioned a plan to offer her resignation at the end of the term months ago.

That being said, all cabinet members have a similar tradition of offering the resignation at the end of a term regardless.

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