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OC Public Health Director Announces Retirement As County Battles COVID-19

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) - A top Orange County public health official has abruptly resigned as the region continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

David Souleles has been the department's de facto chief for Richard Sanchez, who last month stepped down as Orange County Health Care Agency director to take over as the head of CalOptima, which provides insurance for low-income residents.

On Monday, Souleles informed county CEO Frank Kim and the Health Care Agency's interim director, Bob Wilson, that he was retiring. In a resignation letter, he said his last day would be May 1.

"I am proud of the accomplishments of public health over the past 16 years I have been here, and know that the staff in Public Health Services will continue to do good work moving forward," Souleles wrote.

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On Tuesday, Souleles presented a preliminary plan to the Board of Supervisors for the eventual reopening of Orange County.

An internal email sent Wednesday from Souleles to staff announcing his departure said, "I am looking forward to the opportunity to spend more time with family in the weeks and months ahead. It has been a pleasure and an honor serving with each and everyone of you. Together as a team we have done great work to protect and improve the health of our community. You are truly an exceptional team of dedicated public health professionals and our neighbors are better off for the work that you do.''

Supervisor Doug Chaffee told City News Service he did not know why Souleles decided to resign in the middle of the pandemic, adding, "There's something personal there, but he's not shared it with me."

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