Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, who led the Maryland county through the COVID-19 pandemic, is stepping down from his post to take a top public health role with the state.
Kalyanaraman’s last day with the county will be March 21, before he becomes the deputy secretary for public health services at the Maryland Department of Health, according to a news release from Anne Arundel County.
“We all knew that Dr. Kalyanaraman was a superstar when we hired him, and he turned out to be exactly the leader that we needed,” said County Executive Steuart Pittman in the release. “Dr. Kalyanaraman led with compassion, strength, and brilliance, integrating public health into every corner of local governance, and leading our defense against a virus that took the lives of 1,255 county residents.”
Kalyanaraman has served as the county’s health officer since 2019.
County officials credited Kalyanaraman with setting up contact tracing teams early on in the pandemic and noted the county — Maryland’s fourth largest by population with nearly 600,000 residents — had the third-lowest death rate from COVID in the state.
The health officer was also credited with boosting the county’s vaccination rate in the initial phase of the vaccine rollout.
Got my second #CovidVaccine dose today to keep others and myself safer. When it’s your turn I hope you get the #shot. And so far just some soreness in my arm. I’ll give an update tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/JzVxfxuT1i
— Nilesh Kalyanaraman (@nileshkal) February 4, 2021
Kalyanaraman also faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic, including a January 2022 lawsuit filed by restaurant owners who said a health order mandating the use of face masks during the omicron wave was unconstitutional.
The health officer’s order came after the county council rejected an extension of the mask mandate.
In the end, an Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge ruled against the lawsuit, allowing the order to remain in effect.
In addition, county officials credited Kalyanaraman with developing a “Community Health Ambassadors” program and launching an Office of Health Equity and Racial Justice to identify health disparities.
“We’ve accomplished a lot, including responding to a global pandemic, that improved the health of all residents in Anne Arundel County, particularly those with the greatest needs,” Kalyanaraman said in the news release. “I look forward to the opportunity to continue advancing public health at the state level.”
In January, new Maryland Gov. Wes Moore nominated Dr. Laura Herrera Scott, a former state public health deputy secretary, to head the Department of Health.