For the second time during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s top health official is stepping down.
Gov. Doug Burgum said interim state health officer Dr. Andrew Stahl will be leaving at the end of the month. Stahl will be joining the staff at Sanford Health in Bismarck.
Stahl replaced Mylynn Tufte, who left the health officer position June 1.
During his weekly coronavirus briefing, Burgum said Stahl had told him early on that he wanted to return to private practice. He praised the work Stahl had done.
"We're deeply grateful for Dr. Stahl's dedication and service to the state in this incredibly challenging time," Burgum said. "Under his leadership, the Department of Health has continued to lead the way in protecting public health, partnering with state and local and tribal agencies, to save lives."
Burgum said Stahl had told him he should consider moving the state from the current “low,” or “green” threat level to the “moderate” or “yellow” level. Burgum said he welcomed the recommendation, but said there are other factors in doing that.
"I think we've said all along that we're going to make decisions to try and balance the risk," Burgum said. "We're not asking the state health officer to take on economic risk, financial risk, legal risk or political risk. That's not what they're hired and paid to do."
Burgum said those decisions "roll up" to his office.
"We have to look at a lot of different factors on how we're making those decisions," Burgum said.
Burgum said he hopes to have a new interim state health officer named by September.
The state is also advertising for a permanent state health officer.