SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The doctor who’s helped spearhead New Mexico’s response to COVID-19 since 2020, Dr. David Scrase is retiring. In an announcement sent out Friday, the New Mexico Governor’s Office said Dr. Scrase’s retirement will be in late February.

Scrase lead the New Mexico Human Services Department since the start of Governor Lujan Grisham’s administration in January 2019. By March 2020, Scrase became one of the most well-known figures in state government, helping outline and explain the state’s COVID-19 policies to hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans in dozens of weekly news conferences through 2020 and into 2021.

Scrase is credited by the Governor’s Office for standing up a large-scale testing operations “that served as a national model.” New Mexico was also among the top states in delivering oral treatments for COVID-19 patients and had one of the country’s highest COVID-19 vaccination rates, according to the Governor’s Office.

The state has been largely without COVID-19 restrictions since February 2022, when Governor Lujan Grisham announced an end to the state’s mask requirements. The Governor in part called Scrase “the face of the pandemic” in a news release Friday.

“For many, he was the face of the state’s pandemic response, and his leadership contributed to countless New Mexican lives being saved,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “What’s more, his work at HSD has benefited hundreds of thousands of low-income New Mexico families, delivering critical supports and services.”

Scrase also served as the state’s acting Department of Health cabinet secretary from July 2021 until January 2023. Dr. Patrick Allen was since taken the role of leading NMDOH.

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Scrase, who is also a practicing geriatrician, is currently on leave from the department due to a family emergency. He will be replaced by Kari Armijo, who will serve as the interim leader of the Department of Human Services.

“It has been an incredible honor to work for the Governor for the past four years, and I am proud of all that we have accomplished together, particularly in managing the COVID pandemic in New Mexico — I feel extremely privileged and cherish the four years working with the outstanding leaders and employees at HSD,” Dr. Scrase said in a news release. “Likewise, the several years that I spent with the Department of Health and their amazing leaders and staff was another high point in my life. In addition to the support and encouragement that I have received from both departments, I have received continual and strong support from members of the Legislature as well, and for that, I am very grateful. I have made many lifelong friends and will take wonderful memories into my retirement — And, of course, I could not possibly have endured the challenges of the past four years without the support of my wife Chantel and my family.  I am deeply grateful for everyone with whom I have crossed paths during this time.”

Dr. Scrase’s last day will be February 24, 2023.