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Metro Health director resigns as COVID-19 cases surge in San Antonio

'Clearly the timing is not good,' San Antonio city manager said about resignation of Dr. Dawn Emerick

SAN ANTONIO – The woman charged with overseeing the city’s health strategy, Metro Health Director Dr. Dawn Emerick has resigned just five months after starting the job.

Emerick resigned Thursday night as city and county leaders work on a strategy to contain and flatten the recent surge of COVID-19.

City Manager Erik Walsh spoke about the resignation on Friday.

“Public health officials in this country probably have the most difficult job right now,” Walsh said. “I’d probably say it’s more difficult than being a police chief, and Dawn worked tirelessly.”

Walsh said Emerick hit the ground running when she began in late January, shortly before evacuees who were taken to Joint Base San Antonio Lackland before the novel coronavirus became a worldwide pandemic.

“The moment she got here, she’s been responding to a pandemic,” Walsh said.

Walsh said Emerick did not give a specific reason about her resignation, but acknowledged that city officials have been under “a lot of pressure.” Walsh said they are working on developing a transition plan.

Emerick expressed frustration during the city briefing Tuesday night over the backlogs in COVID-19 testing and results.

“It shouldn’t be this way. I’m angry, I’m tired and it shouldn’t be this way,” she said.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg praised Metro Health, saying their vital work will continue.

“It’s a big team and capable team,” Nirenberg said. “And they were one of the best in the nation before this pandemic started. And we’re going to continue to be.”

Emerick is the second high-ranking San Antonio official to step down amid the pandemic. In May, Assistant City Manger Dr. Colleen Bridger also announced plans to resign on July 17.

Before she was assistant city manager, Bridger oversaw Metro Health since March 2017. Bridger said she would help in the transition plan and may adjust her resignation date if necessary.

San Antonio Assistant City Manager Dr. Colleen Bridger to resign

Walsh issued a statement on the resignation Friday morning:

“Last night, I received a letter of resignation from Metro Health Director Dr. Dawn Emerick. Clearly, the timing is not good, but we wish her well in her future endeavors. The COVID-19 emergency has revealed the depth of talent that exists within our health department, which will continue to lead the public health response. Dr. Bridger and I will work with my team to develop a plan going forward.”