California’s ‘Vaccine Czar’ Resigns from Position at Government Operations Agency

Yolanda Richardson, the woman Governor Newsom has called the “vaccine czar” is leaving the state government for a position in San Francisco, she announced Wednesday.

Richardson, the secretary of the Government Operations Agency, will soon be taking over San Francisco’s Medi-Cal Plan. Her last day with the State of California will be March 2. 

The Government Operations Agency oversees California’s Human Resources Department, the Department of General Services, several technology and IT departments, CalPERS, CalSTRS and various other major departments.

Since her appointment by Governor Gavin Newsom in January 2020, Richardson has taken almost immediate assignment to significant roles in the state’s pandemic response.

According to her state bio, Richardson was responsible for the transition of the state workforce to remote work and for acquiring personal protective equipment and testing supplies. Governor Newsom also tasked her with leading California’s 2020 Census effort and leading a team to address significant issues with distributing unemployment checks at the Employment Development Department. 

Richardson appeared alongside Governor Newsom during events aimed at increasing COVID-19 vaccinations, including a vaccination lottery event at Universal Studios. “We have our own vaccine czar, Yolanda Richardson,” Newsom said. “We’re grateful for her incredible leadership and stewardship.”

In a statement Thursday, Newsom said Richardson was “an integral partner in leading the state’s robust response to the pandemic and ongoing efforts to tackle its far-reaching impacts on Californians.”

Richardson’s resignation comes only days after that of another top-ranking official integral to California’s pandemic response. On Wednesday, California’s first surgeon general Dr. Nadine Burke Harris announced her resignation.  Also resigning was EDD director Rita Saenz, the third director of EDD in the last two years. Given that California’s medical officials are dwindling, it seems as though the future of the state’s pandemic response team is uncertain.

Photo Cred: Damian Dovarganes/ AP FILE