Ige defends virus response of health officials

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s governor has defended the performance of two of the state’s top heath officials overseeing the coronavirus response, saying they retain his support despite recent criticism from the lieutenant governor and others.

Democratic Gov. David Ige said he has confidence in state Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson and State Epidemiologist Sarah Park, Hawaii Public Radio reported Wednesday.

“We’ve had a team from the Department of Health that has been actively engaged with federal and county partners, really dealing with this COVID pandemic that we are all experiencing for the first time,” Ige said Tuesday.

Ige said he and the health department leaders are focused on data collection and public health guidance and have implemented restrictions in response to the state’s coronavirus situation, including a recent increase in the number of infections.

“We have seen in recent weeks a rapid surge in the number of cases and I have directed the department to accelerate the hiring and expansion of more contact tracers in order to meet the surge,” Ige said.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green called for Park to be removed from management of the contact tracing effort.

Park told a state Senate committee last week that the health department has 105 active contact tracers and is adding more. Green said he wants to employ 400 to 500 contact tracers, while estimating the state needs hundreds beyond that.

Park’s testimony prompted senators to pay a surprise visit to the health department the next day. Some of the legislators described contact tracers working long hours in cramped quarters and handling caseloads beyond their capacity, prioritizing some cases and leaving others aside.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, called on Anderson and Park to resign in April for what she described as a weak response to the pandemic.

She renewed her criticism this week. There is “no excuse” not to use congressional funding to employ all available contact tracers and use Hawaii National Guard personnel to assist, Gabbard said in a statement.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

  1. RevW August 14, 2020 12:44 pm Reply

    Can we say “editorial bias”, everyone? The writer has labelled Ige and Gabbard as Democrats, but ***not*** mentioned the affiliation of Anderson, Park or Green. Party affiliation is irrelevant in this disagreement, except as part of some covert secondary agenda of the writer (or editor).

  2. surferboy069 August 16, 2020 1:00 pm Reply

    From Day 1 Gov. Ige and Lt. Gov. Green did not see eye to eye on the state’s response to this pandemic. Now the second wave has hit the island with triple digit infections its now clear Gov. Ige and his DOH managers are incapable of managing the pandemic. Sarah Park may be a fine scientist but not a good manager. Bruce Anderson, I don’t understand him when he speaks during a press conference. Its not just my opinion but voices are getting louder for him to step down or Gov. Ige to fire him.

    I applaud Sen. Kouchi’s response to Gov. Ige’s letter scolding those senators who paid an unannounced visit to the Dept. of Health. Incompetence of the department’s leadership or lack thereof showed its ugly head. The “whistleblower” said, “contact tracers weren’t allowed to work from home.” Yet Sarah Park said some contact tracers were working remotely. There’s your disconnect. If they are not allowed to work from home yet working remotely, where are they working out from. Are they working out of parks, beaches, or shopping malls? Clearly it showed Sarah Park is clueless as to what’s happening in that department. Now the deputy director of DOH has been appointed to manage the pandemic response the people of Hawaii can finally see some progress in this battle as we continue to see triple digit infections. I might add: why don’t you hire UH 3rd or 4th year medical students as contact tracers or even UH Nursing School students.

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