Dr. Mark Escott to become city of Austin chief medical officer, Dr. Desmar Walkes for medical director/health authority

Sheryl Lawrence

Dr. Desmar Walkes will be the city of Austin’s next medical director and health authority after Dr. Mark Escott resigned as interim health authority to become the city of Austin’s chief medical officer. 

These changes are effective May 31, according to a press release from the city of Austin.

Escott has served as the interim medical director and health authority since October 2019 and guided the city of Austin through the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, Escott provided updates as Austin identified two positive COVID-19 cases and community spread began in Austin. In March 2021, Escott and other Austin Public Health officials reflected on COVID-19’s impact over the past year, discussed increasing vaccinations and testified in court regarding the Austin-Travis County mask mandate.

The medical director and health authority oversees Austin Public Health operations and will be responsible for more than 300 licensed professionals, according to the press release. Walkes previously served as the local health authority for Bastrop County since 2007, according to the press release.

“I’m honored to be joining the Austin Public Health team and look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead as the next Medical Director and Health Authority for the City of Austin and Travis County,” Walkes said in the press release.

Stephanie Hayden-Howard, the director of Austin Public Health, will begin working as Austin’s assistant city manager for health & environment and culture & lifelong learning on Monday, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Austin Public Health announced new guidelines Tuesday for those who are vaccinated. Walk-up appointments are now allowed at Austin Public Health vaccination centers, and Austin-Travis County health officials predict the risk level for COVID-19 could drop to Stage 2 by next week, according to KXAN

Escott said the Austin community needs to continue wearing masks and staying committed to getting vaccinated. UT Health Austin hopes to have the entire UT community vaccinated by July, according to previous reporting by The Daily Texan.