Anchorage epidemiologist who oversaw COVID-19 data resigns

Janet Johnston during a virtual press conference in Oct. 2020. (Screen capture from Anchorage Health Department video)

Anchorage’s city epidemiologist, Janet Johnston, has left her job for a position outside the government.

“With the transition to the new administration, I felt like it was the right time for me to leave,” said Johnston in a phone call Tuesday.

Johnston’s resignation comes at a key moment for city government, as a new mayor, Dave Bronson, was sworn in last month and experts warn that rising COVID-19 cases could quickly fill local hospital beds.

Bronson, a conservative who has said he is not getting the COVID-19 vaccine, was critical of many of the previous administration’s health mandates during the pandemic. But both Johnston and Bronson administration officials said she was not asked to leave.

Johnston’s job was created during the pandemic and funded by the federal government. Money for the position will run out when the federal pandemic emergency ends.

David Morgan, Bronson’s appointee to run the health department where Johnston worked, praised her work for the city. He said she would be difficult to replace and added that “she’s still on my Christmas card list.”

“She was great, and we were fortunate to have had her,” he said.

As an epidemiologist, Johnston oversaw city data on COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. She also provided public health recommendations based on that data.

“I am very happy for everything we were able to do,” Johnston said.

Morgan said he was reaching out to state epidemiologists Tuesday to discuss possible replacements for Johnston.

Alaska Public Media

Alaska Public Media is our partner station in Anchorage. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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