Fran Phillips, a veteran public health nurse who has guided Maryland’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, announced Wednesday that she’s retiring.
Early on in the pandemic, Phillips was often the public face of Gov. Larry Hogan’s response to the pandemic, appearing at news conferences to dispense medical information about the virus and how it spreads.
Since 2018, Phillips had been serving as deputy state health secretary for public health, her second time as a high-ranking state health employee. She also had a long career in Anne Arundel County, serving twice as that county’s health officer and once as its interim fire chief.
Phillips will be replaced by Dr. Jinlene Chan, currently the assistant health secretary and chief medical officer.
Hogan said Chan would have “some very big shoes to fill.”
Hogan, a Republican, said Phillips has been the state’s “field general,” working around the clock “to marshal an unprecedented public health response to this global pandemic.”
“She’s been a trusted adviser to me, a guiding force to our entire team and a steady and calming presence to Marylanders who are looking for reassurance,” Hogan said. “She’s simply done an amazing job.”
The governor presented Phillips with a citation to honor her contributions but joked that it was “not the best time unfortunately to throw you a retirement party.”
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Phillips said Marylanders “have shown great conviction” and that “we did slow the spread and we did save lives.” She praised Hogan for his “steadfast, no-nonsense leadership.”
Phillips, who stayed longer in her post than the one year originally planned, said “it is now time for me to return to retirement.”
Phillips made one last appeal to Marylanders to do their part to slow the spread of the coronavirus: “We need to stick together. We need to honor each other by wearing masks, by keeping our distance, by choosing to curtail in-person activities and by making smart decisions. We can put ourselves in control of this virus.
Chan said the state has “come quite a long way” since the first coronavirus cases were confirmed on March 5.
“We have taken huge steps and worked around the clock — multitudes of individuals in public health, in health care, in private business, in schools and in so many other sectors — to work to keep Marylanders safe,” she said.
Moving forward, Chan said state officials will keep “a really close eye” on other states that are hotspots for the virus. She said Maryland residents must abide by “small inconveniences” such as wearing masks, washing hands, practicing social distancing and avoiding gatherings to keep the spread of the virus manageable in Maryland.
“Now is absolutely not the time to be complacent,” Chan said.