Harris County’s top doc leaving for Washington state

Harris County Public Health Executive Director Dr. Umair Shah talks about contact tracing and the recent spike in COVD-19 cases in Harris County, Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Houston. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the state is facing a "massive outbreak" in the coronavirus pandemic and that some new local restrictions may be needed to protect hospital space for new patients. (David J. Phillip, AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

HOUSTON – The top health official in Harris County is leaving to become the next Secretary of Health for Washington state.

Dr. Umair Shah joined Harris County Public Health as a deputy director in 2004 and has become a familiar face to Houstonians since becoming the executive director of HCPH in 2013.

Shah has been a vocal health advocate amid the coronavirus pandemic, insisting people stay home as case numbers started to rise in March. He also pushed forward plans for COVID-19 testing and contact-tracing.

The doctor also saw the region through the devastation of hurricanes Ike and Harvey, created a new mosquito testing lab and helped build a new animal shelter that saw its “leave alive” rate increase from 15% to 98%.

Shah’s resignation is effective Dec. 18.