Dr. Ngozi Ezike, who led the Illinois Department of Public Health through the COVID-19 pandemic for two years, will leave her post next week, and she says that she is ready for new challenges as she prepares to exit the public stage.
Ezike became a regular fixture on Illinois television sets, computers and mobile devices, participating in more than 200 COVID-19 press conferences with Gov. J.B. Pritzker during the pandemic.
Through it all, she offered advice, as well as perspective on the grim reality of how COVID-19 was impacting the health and safety of the state.
“I’ve really given it all I can,” she said. “I know that I have erred on the side of caution with many of the decisions as we looked around at our neighbors and other states.”
Feeling out of the loop? We'll catch you up on the Chicago news you need to know. Sign up for the weekly Chicago Catch-Up newsletter here.
While Ezike says that she has many positive memories of interactions with Illinois residents, there were certainly challenges, including threatening emails and even packages from individuals that were unhappy with mitigations implemented by officials.
“The ones that reached the highest level, I’d send them to the state police. There were packages sent to my door with cryptic writing, but fortunately nothing came of it,” she said. “I tried to focus so much less on the downside and on the scarier things, and think of how positive it was with everybody working together.”
Ezike says that she is leaving the position at the right time, with COVID cases on the decline and mitigations being scaled back in many instances.
“A fresh set of legs and a fresh set of eyes is exactly what this state needs,” she said.
As for what’s next, there are reports that she will join Mount Sinai Health System, and while she’s not ready to disclose her plans, she says she is planning to take a break and to visit family.
“I have no plans right now,” she said. “I’m so excited to take a break. I look forward to visiting LA next week, and visiting my mom.”
Her replacement at IDPH has not yet been named.