HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A state Health Department whistleblower who helped to expose the agency’s failed efforts to conduct contact tracing for COVID-19 cases has been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of an “investigation,” sources tell Hawaii News Now.
Honolulu Civil Beat reported Tuesday that Dr. Jennifer Smith, who came forward to tell state Senators and the public that the Department of Health had been untruthful about its tracing capabilities while cases were exploding on Oahu, was asked to go on leave on Friday ― the same day her former boss, state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park, was also forced to go on leave.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Governor David Ige today refused to talk about Dr. Park’s situation, calling it a personnel matter.
In an email to Civil Beat, a spokesperson for the Health Department confirmed that Dr. Smith was on leave but said that no other information would be provided.
Smith was an investigator in the state disease Outbreak Control Division, who also appeared on-camera when state Senators conducted an unannounced visit at the Department of Health last month.
During that visit, she told lawmakers that she had so many cases to investigate that she was forced to prioritize them and only call people who were older than 65.
Shortly after the revelation that investigators were being overwhelmed with cases was made public ― despite the public statements of the Health Department and Gov. Ige ― Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson abruptly announced his retirement, and the state made a renewed commitment to immediately hire hundreds of additional contact tracers, as well as many more investigators.