Dr. Umair Shah, Harris County's top health authority, is stepping down

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County's top medical expert, who's played a crucial role in the fight against COVID-19, is about to leave, for a new job outside of Texas.

Dr. Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health, will leave his position on Dec. 18. According to the agency, Shah is taking the role of Secretary of Health for the state of Washington.

The video above was produced in March 2020 early in Harris County's confrontation with the pandemic.

Shah's impending departure is coming in the midst of heightened concern over the virus' spread in the county ahead of the holiday season. The county confirmed more than 175,000 cases throughout the course of the pandemic, including 2,360 deaths.

Shah has played a vital role in the county's response to COVID-19. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo offered her thanks to the doctor during a news conference Tuesday.

WATCH: Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo thanks Dr. Shah
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Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo offered her gratitude to outgoing executive director of the county's public health department, Dr. Umair Shah.

Shah joined HCPH in 2004, later becoming the county's executive director in 2013. It's not immediately known who will take over the role. County commission is next scheduled to meet on Dec. 1.

"Dr. Shah will be sorely missed. However, we are grateful for his leadership, and vision and wish Dr. Shah the very best in his new endeavor," the county stated.

The doctor has been a steering influence in the decisions made by Hidalgo, especially when it came to restrictions to stem the spread.

Hidalgo indicated recently that "another pull-back" would be necessary to regain control of the coronavirus.

SEE ALSO: Harris Co. Judge Lina Hidalgo on rising cases: 'Another pull-back is necessary'
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Could this mean another shut down for Harris County? If so, will it be different from the first? Here's what we know.

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