Brooke Baldwin, one of CNN's veteran anchors who became "incredibly sick" last year with COVID-19, opened her afternoon show on Tuesday by announcing she's leaving the network in April.
Baldwin, 41, has been at CNN since 2008 – first in Atlanta and since 2014 in New York – as host of "CNN Newsroom," airing from 3 to 4 p.m. ET.
She made the announcement just after coming on air, suggesting she plans to take a break from the news. She also posted on her Instagram. She said she will focus on her book, "Huddle," due April 6, which is about women "unlocking their collective power."
CNN, which did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday, announced a new daytime lineup Wednesday, effective in April. Among changes: Alisyn Camerota and Victor Blackwell will co-anchor "CNN Newsroom" in a two-hour block that replaces Baldwin, from 2 to 4 p.m. ET; Brianna Keilar will shift to mornings, joining John Berman on "New Day" from 6 to 9 a.m.; and Ana Cabrera will anchor "Newsroom" from 1 to 2 p.m.
First, Baldwin shared her own exit: "Before we get going, let me start with some personal news: I will be leaving CNN in April," she said. She paused and gulped.
Baldwin said her next chapter will be focused on what she loves most, amplifying the lives of extraordinary Americans and a passion for storytelling. She said she's been working on her book for two years.
"There is more I need to do outside the walls of this place, this place I've been privileged to call home for 13 years," she told viewers. "Yes, we're still in a pandemic. No, I don't have another job to jump into. And yes, yes, I am feeling very vulnerable."
But she's also feeling positive about the future. "I am so excited about what is to come."
Then she immediately began interviewing CNN political reporters Jeff Zeleny and Dana Bash; the latter praised Baldwin and hailed her as a mentor.
Last year, Baldwin opened up about the two weeks of hell she experienced with COVID-19, in a personal essay she posted on CNN in April, about living with and covering the global pandemic.
The essay was illustrated with Instagram pictures of Baldwin during her illness, looking glum and exasperated, even when she had her pug, Pugsley, by her side.
For Baldwin, it was hard to cope with the melancholy and isolation, even with her husband in the same New York apartment. He didn't get sick ("knock on wood," she said), despite many hugs of comfort during the times she went to "very dark places."
"These simple acts of connecting with me and hugging me were restorative beyond measure. The isolation might be worse than the body aches," she wrote.
The physical pain was so bad she had to take long, nightly hot baths to distract her from her own aching body. Then there were the nightly fever sweats, a pervasive sense of dread, the crying jags and the lack of interest in food she could no longer taste or smell.
"And most of all I am grateful for the reminders this virus provided: First, that clarity comes from being quiet and listening to our feelings. And second, that connection is more vital to our health and happiness than we might care to admit," she wrote.
In October, for her 10th year as anchor of her own show, Baldwin posted a message on Instagram celebrating the anniversary. She said she was taking off until after the November election and that Jake Tapper would be taking over her hour. She didn't explain why.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brooke Baldwin leaving CNN to focus on new book; network shifts lineup