For immediate release: December 21, 2020 (20-255)
Washington State Department of Health welcomes new secretary of health, Dr. Umair A. Shah
OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is pleased to welcome Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, as our new secretary of health.
Secretary Shah comes to Washington from Harris County Public Health (HCPH) in Texas, where he served as the executive director and local health authority. Harris County is the third largest county in the nation, with nearly five million people. His appointment to the position was announced last month by Governor Jay Inslee, and his tenure begins today, Dec. 21.
“I want to begin by thanking Governor Inslee, Secretary Wiesman, and the great people here at DOH for welcoming me so warmly to the state of Washington,” said Secretary Shah. “I know this is a difficult time to be making such a transition, especially in the midst of this pandemic. However, I am a firm believer in working together to take on any issue in front of us. As your new secretary of health, my goal is to build upon the work of a strong leader such as Dr. Wiesman in serving the people of Washington. Utilizing every tool in our toolbox including vaccines, I am confident we will turn the corner in our battle against COVID-19.”
“I am thrilled that Dr. Shah is stepping into this position, and I know that his expertise in public health leadership, especially during this pandemic, will benefit the people of Washington greatly,” said outgoing Secretary of Health John Wiesman. Dr. Wiesman will be taking a few months off and then join the faculty at the University of North Carolina, Gillings School of Global Public Health.
While we welcome our new secretary of health, our public health guidance remains consistent. We continue to encourage the people of Washington to practice the good public health behaviors that have helped us in fighting the current surge of COVID-19 in the state.
- Wearing a mask, even with people you see regularly and in your smallest social circles;
- Keeping gatherings outside whenever possible;
- Avoiding any social gatherings indoors, but if participating, wearing a mask and ensuring windows and doors are open to maximize ventilation;
- Wearing a mask while in the car with other people, including with family who do not live in your household;
- Washing hands often, not touching your face, and carrying hand sanitizer for use when water and soap are not available;
- Staying home if you are sick or if you have been exposed to COVID-19; and,
- Getting tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive.
Dr. Wiesman adds, “I have faith in the people of Washington and their ability to band together now and in the coming months to flatten the curve and continue to practice these safety measures as long as they’re needed. We can take heart in knowing that vaccine has already started to roll out, creating a safer, brighter future for people across the state.”