Gov. Inslee names Dr. Umair Shah as new state Department of Health secretary

Gov. Jay Inslee named Dr. Umair A. Shah as the new state Department of Health secretary on Tuesday morning.

Shah currently serves as the head of Harris County Public Health in Texas and has worked as an emergency room physician.

“Dr. Shah brings an unrivaled expertise, knowledge and passion for public health,” Inslee said. “His leadership will help us lead Washington state through the next crucial phase of this pandemic. He is uniquely suited to continue our nation-leading response.”

The current secretary, Dr. John Wiesman, accepted a faculty position at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health before the pandemic started.

Shah will replace Wiesman starting Dec. 21.

Shah managed several health crises in Houston, including the Zika virus, Hurricane Harvey and COVID -19.

“Innovation, engagement, equity, global health, health tech — all of these things are absolutely critical. But right now, the most important focus for everyone is fighting COVID-19,” Shah told reporters.

Shah’s appointment comes days after Inslee announced a four-week ban on indoor gatherings and indoor dining as case counts rise again.

“We are in an explosive position on this pandemic at the moment,” Inslee said.

Inslee on Tuesday responded to people again buying up toilet paper, saying the new reduction in supermarket capacity from 30% to 25% isn’t that much and should not be causing panic.

“It is not a moment to be hoarding. It is not necessary. Our supply chains are very, very healthy,” the governor said.