DOH director, state epidemiologist absent from COVID-19 briefing

Ige appoints new official to oversee state's COVID-19 contact tracing program

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - State Health Director Bruce Anderson and state Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park have been the health department’s two most visible faces in the fight against COVID-19.

But the two were nowhere to be seen at the governor’s press briefing Thursday.

Neither has lost their job, but Gov. David Ige announced that he was putting someone else in charge of the department’s trouble contact tracing efforts.

“I directed the Department of Health, and specifically the deputy director, Danette Wong Tomiyasu, to take charge of the effort and ensure that we can accelerate bringing on additional staff,” Ige said.

The governor also announced that Dr. Emily Roberson had been hired as the department’s new Disease Investigation branch chief. Roberson will report directly to Tomiyasu.

Roberson was with Park last week when state senators made a surprise visit to the department and encountered overworked contact tracers.

There have been calls for Anderson and Park to be replaced.

But the governor and Tomiyasu both stress that park is still on the job as state epidemiologist.

“Sarah Park had broad responsibility in the Department of Health, and we believe more resources needed to be brought to the challenge,” said Ige.

“Dr. Sarah Park continues to be a very vital part of the Department of Health, applying her expertise to disease outbreak and infection control,” said Tomiyasu.

Tomiyasu will still report directly to her boss, Anderson.

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