Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi O. Ezike speaks Tuesday afternoon after Gov. JB Pritzker announces she is stepping down from her post. | Photo: Illinois Information Service

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of Illinois’ health department and face of regular COVID-19 updates, will be stepping down from her post this month, Gov. JB Pritzker announced.

Pritzker made the announcement Tuesday afternoon during a COVID-19 press conference at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

“For over three years, Dr. Ngozi Ezike has served as the head of the Illinois Department of Public Health. With all her being, she has dedicated each day — and I mean every day — to the agency’s mission to protect the health and wellness of the people of Illinois. For much of the last two years, she’s dedicated every night too,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker said that Ezike has joined him at more than 160 COVID press conferences. “Becoming a beacon of stability for millions during a time of tremendous uncertainty. And she’s been doing so in English and in Spanish.”

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“No number of sleepless nights and endless days could wear her down, her commitment to think first and foremost of Illinois’ must vulnerable,” he said.

Ezike last day in her post will be March 14.

Amaal Tokars, who is currently the Assistant Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, will serve as interim director while a nationwide search is conducted to find a permanent replacement.

“It is a chance that I’m loathe to accept. But perhaps she can finally get a good night’s sleep and precious time with her husband and four kids,” Pritzker said.

The governor issued a proclamation declaring today as “Dr. Ngozi Ezike Day” in Illinois.

“It has been a great honor serving the people of Illinois as the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. Being the state’s top doc during a global pandemic has been challenging to say the least, but it’s been an amazing journey to work with so many great public health professionals and leaders from all sectors,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike.

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“I want to thank Governor Pritzker for the opportunity he provided me and for his dedication to the people of this great state. The dedicated men and women of IDPH, will continue their mission-driven work to protect the health and safety of all Illinois residents,” Ezike said.

Ezike said it has been “an honor to be able to share these updates, share information, help create policy.”

Ezike called the past three years of working as the state’s top health director “an incredible opportunity” and “pinnacle of my career.”