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Local health department ‘surprised’ at the news of state’s health director’s resignation

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
DHSS logo, Missouri Department Health and Senior Services

COLUMBIA, MO (KMIZ)

Missouri state health director, Dr. Randall Williams, resigned from his position at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Kristi Campbell, the director of the Cole County Health Department, said she was surprised when she heard the news of Dr. Williams. Campbell says she hadn't heard anything in regards to Dr. Williams potentially leaving and she hopes that it's not due to a medical issue.

"I know that it's been a hard year for him and for public health and for all the local public health directors a lot of extra stress and a lot of attention, it's been very challenging. I hope that he does well in whatever he does next," said Campbell.

Campbell expects the vaccine distribution to continue successfully with Williams's departure. Williams' team and other members of the health department have worked collaboratively in order to execute the state's vaccine rollout plans.

"I think that he has a really good team there at DHSS and the governor's office has a really good team that's been involved with that vaccine rollout and the distribution allocation. Robert Knodell who has been named as the acting director has been pretty instrumental in that process, so I don't think that anything will be affected by his departure," said Campbell.

The Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services, spokesperson, Sara Humm, says the department doesn't know anything more than what is being reported about Williams's resignation and would rather refrain from making any statements at this time.

Effective today, Governor Mike Parson named his Deputy Chief of Staff, Robert Knodell, as the acting director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Knodell has played an active role in the state's vaccine rollout plan.

Though Knodell does not have a background in public health or in the medical field, he will take on the role of acting director of the state's health department immediately. Dr. George Turabelidze, the state's epidemiologist, will sign off on all health orders because Knodell does not have a medical license.

Adam Crumbliss, the director of The Division of Community and Public Health, for DHSS, says the current health order will remain in effect but under new signatures of the active director and Dr. Turabelidze. DHSS held its COVID-19 vaccinator meeting, where Crumbliss provided information on how current health orders would continue.

"Just to be clear essentially the issue there is that we have new orders that are all issued, so everything is continued except that acting director Knodell is not a physician, he could not sign that order himself as a standing order so that’s why Dr. Turabelidze has signed off on those and so those are all still in effect just under Dr. Turabelidze," said Crumbliss.

Crumbliss says essentially nothing has changed with current health orders as it's just been signed under new authorization with Williams's departure. Health organizations and officials are expected to continue to operate under those orders unless otherwise

“The standing orders for administration under the signature of both the acting director of the department of health Robert Knodell, as well as the state epidemiologist Dr. George Turabelidze and that is why the new standing orders exist so that if you’re operating under Dr. Williams previous standing order the only thing that has changed is the date and the signatories on it. Nothing else has shifted or changed in the requirements or methodologies," said Crumbliss.

Campbell says she hopes the next director will be collaborative and understands the public health system in Missouri.

"If we can work together we can move the public health system in Missouri forward, but it's going to take all of us doing our part and someone who has that collaborative nature and can bring all the partners to the table and utilize those strengths of one entity to build up the weaknesses of another is what we need to move Missouri forward," said Campbell.

Cole / Health / Jefferson City / Missouri / Missouri Politics / News / Politics
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Victoria Bragg

Victoria Bragg joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in October 2020.

She is a graduate of Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas and is a Dallas native.

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