By CBS Baltimore Staff

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (WJZ) — A California health official who spent decades of his career in Maryland is stepping down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, weeks after using a racist term referring to Asian Americans.

Dr. Peter Beilenson, Baltimore City’s Health Commissioner between 1992 and 2005, came under fire in November after using the phrase “yellow folks” to describe Asian Americans during a Sacramento County Board of Supervisors meeting, CBS Sacramento reported.

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He later apologized for what he said was a mistake.

Dr. Peter Beilenson. Credit: CBS Sacramento

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Beilenson, the director of the Sacramento County Department of Health Services, said family emergencies prompted his resignation, not the pressure of the job.

“So we, unfortunately, had a couple of family emergencies requiring us to move back to Baltimore so we’re going to be doing that in the next couple, two-and-a-half weeks,” Beilenson said to CBS San Francisco.

According to a 2018 news release announcing his hiring, Sacramento County officials said Beilenson also served as the Howard County Health Director from 2007 to 2012. After that, he served as the CEO, president and founder of Baltimore-based Evergreen Health.

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Beilenson also got his Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, according to an alumni biography.

CBS Baltimore Staff