CHICAGO — The city’s top public health official was fired by Mayor Brandon Johnson after helping to lead the city through the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Allison Arwady was ousted Friday from her role as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, according to media reports. Arwady’s firing ends her eight-year run with the public health office, including nearly four years as commissioner of the agency.
First Deputy Commissioner Fikirte Wagaw was named acting commissioner, the Tribune reported.
Arwady was the city’s top doctor during the coronavirus pandemic, regularly hosting news conferences and livestreams during the early days of the crisis to inform the public on the pandemic’s progress and answer residents’ questions.
As top doctor, Arwady also helped to make controversial decisions on the closure of public schools, bars and restaurants, and public amenities including playgrounds and the lakefront.
Johnson didn’t divulge specifics about Arwady’s dismissal when asked about it during a press conference Monday announcing his pick for Chicago’s next police superintendent, saying, “We had weeks to fully assess and examine the effectiveness of all of our agencies … a quite competent team has done just that and will continue to do that before any recommendations are brought to me.”
Leading the city’s public health agency has been “the best chapter of my life (so far!)” Arwady said in a Twitter thread shortly after her firing was made public. She said her work to advance public healthy equity will continue.
“Public health remains my passion,” Arwady said in a tweet. “I am dedicated to continuing this work, even if I am not able to continue to serve the city I love as your commissioner.”
The fate of Arwady’s status as the city’s top health official became a lightning rod in the recent mayoral election.
Arwady said in a March interview with WBEZ she’d like to stay on with the next administration. On the election trail, mayoral candidate Paul Vallas said he would keep Arwady. Johnson, former Cook County commissioner who beat Vallas to become mayor, had said on the campaign trail he would not retain Arwady.
“We have different views of public health. So no. She will not stay on in my administration,” Johnson said in a March mayoral forum.
Arwardy was fired around 5 p.m. Friday by Johnson’s chief of staff, Rich Guidice, according to the Sun-Times. She had never met Johnson in his short time as mayor, according to the report.
Arwardy mentioned in her Twitter thread that she was “especially disappointed” to not get to say goodbye to her staff at the public health department.
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