BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s new health secretary has started the job, taking the helm of an agency central to state response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Courtney Phillips was named to the position by Gov. John Bel Edwards in February, before Louisiana had its first confirmed infection of the virus. Since then, the state has become a hot spot for the epidemic, with one of the highest per capita rates of infection. The health department announced Friday that Phillips had officially moved into the secretary’s role.
Phillips previously led the Texas Health and Human Services Commission since October 2018. She is a Louisiana native who worked in various roles at the state health department for 12 years during the administrations of former Govs. Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal, including as a one-time chief of staff and deputy secretary for the agency. She left Louisiana to lead Nebraska’s state health agency for more than three years before heading to Texas.
In her new role, Phillips is leading a Louisiana health department that accounts for nearly half of the state’s total annual spending. She follows Rebekah Gee, a medical doctor who oversaw the Louisiana Department of Health during Edwards’ first four years in office. Gee resigned at the end of January. Stephen Russo, the health department’s executive counsel, worked as interim secretary since Gee’s departure.