York City names new medical director amid season of flu and COVID infections

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

As York County continues to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the worst flu season in decades, York City has made a change in leadership at its Bureau of Health.

York native Dr. Oluwatomi Uwazota will now serve as medical director, replacing Dr. Matt Howie in the position.

In an interview, Uwazota said Howie had been one of her mentors while she was in residency at WellSpan York Hospital, and that she'd gotten to know members of the Bureau of Health through volunteer efforts in 2017. She also worked at Family First Health.

A submitted photo of Dr. Oluwatomi Uwazota, the new York City Bureau of Health medical director.

"I saw firsthand how outcomes were sometimes defined, not by individual choices, but by other social determinants of health," Uwazota said Thursday. "I strongly believe in the mission of the York City Bureau of Health to 'promote and protect the health and well-being of all York City residents.'"

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Uwazota graduated from Howard University in 2013 with a doctorate in medicine and also holds a master's in public health from Johns Hopkins University.

Howie provided Uwazota with a ringing endorsement Thursday.

"Her training, clinical skills and knowledge of public health has clearly prepared her for her new role," Howie said.

 City of York Medical Director Dr. Matt Howie speaks at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. The recent uptick in positive COVID-19 testing, specifically at York County Prison, was addressed. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Howie will continue to serve as chief health strategist for York County. He said he will be working on projects to improve the health of the community.

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The new year hasn't seen quite the surge some officials feared — at least not yet.

York County added 797 COVID-19 cases and two deaths last week for pandemic totals of 144,036 and 1,623, respectively. According to state Department of Health data, the county also added 880 new flu cases, bringing its flu season total to 9,277.

"There's been a lot of ups and downs with COVID," Uwazota said Thursday, "particularly in York City."

That included an uptick after Thanksgiving, though Uwazota said the county hasn't yet faced a major surge from a season of holiday gatherings.

"It's important that we observe all the things we know that will help us stay safe and healthy," Uwazota said.

That would include masking in public places, staying home if you show symptoms of COVID or flu and getting all relevant vaccines and boosters.

Meanwhile, national health officials are sounding the alarm about a new so-called "kraken" variant, XBB.1.5 officially, which has surged to become the dominant COVID variant in the country, accounting for about 41% of new infections.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.