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A 'true hero': CDC official who first warned of COVID-19 pandemic resigns

Dr. Nancy Messonnier's warning to prepare for a pandemic in early 2020 drew fury from then-President Donald Trump.
Health And Human Services Briefs The Media On The Department's Response To The Coronavirus
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Nancy Messonnier speaks during a press conference today at the Department of Health and Human Services.Samuel Corum / Getty Images
/ Source: NBC News

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who drew fury from then-President Donald Trump when she first warned Americans publicly to prepare for the coronavirus, has resigned from her position at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a media briefing Friday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky called Messonnier a "true hero."

Messonnier has "been a steward of public health for for the nation over this pandemic, and through a many-decade career, she's made significant contributions, and she leaves behind a strong, strong force of leadership and courage in all that she's done," Walensky said.

Messonnier was the first federal health official to make a blunt statement about where the country was headed, back in February 2020 — weeks before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

"It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," Messonnier said during a media briefing at the time.

After Messonnier's warning, Wall Street plunged for several days, and Trump became enraged. Only a day earlier, Trump had tweeted, "The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA."

Messonnier was soon removed from public briefings related to COVID-19, instead focusing on vaccine efforts behind the scenes as director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

This past April, she was reassigned to a different position. Her resignation soon followed.

In an email to CDC staff, Messonnier said she was taking a new role at the California-based Skoll Foundation, which, according to its website, "drives large-scale change by investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and innovators who help them solve the world's most pressing problems."

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