The Lead

Pa.’s top health official to resign from position by end of year, Wolf administration announces

By: - December 13, 2021 10:54 am

Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam speaks at a press conference. Harrisburg, PA – February 17, 2021

Pennsylvania’s top public health official will resign from her post after serving in the interim for the last 11 months.

Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam will step down at the end of the year, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday morning. 

Wolf, who appointed Beam after Dr. Rachel Levine was selected to serve as President Joe Biden’s U.S. assistant health secretary, plans to name Department of Health Deputy Secretary Keara Klinepeter as successor.

In a statement highlighting the Wolf administration’s efforts in public health, Beam said serving as acting health secretary during “such a critical time in public health has been the most humbling honor of my career.”

“I am proud to have worked with acting Secretary Beam over the past several years, and the commonwealth has been fortunate to have had the benefit of her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic — especially as the Department of Health oversaw a massive vaccine rollout over the course of the past year,” Wolf said in a statement.

The announcement comes three days after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against the administration’s universal mask mandate, enacted earlier this fall by Beam, for K-12 schools and childcare centers. It also follows a year of contentious debate with the Republican-controlled Legislature over pandemic mitigation efforts, including masking requirements and statewide orders. 

After announcing the statewide mask mandate for schools and childcare centers in August, GOP lawmakers, who advocated for curtailing some of the governor’s emergency response powers in the May election, proposed a constitutional amendment to limit the authority of the state’s top health official.

“Thank you to Gov. Wolf and acting Secretary Beam for their steadfast leadership, especially during this trying time for all Pennsylvanians,” Klinepeter said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work closely with the tremendous employees at the Department of Health and ensuring public health remains a top priority throughout the commonwealth. I am honored for the opportunity to lead public health efforts during this critical time and to serve my fellow Pennsylvanians.”

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