Lt. Gov. Green calls for new DOH leadership to handle COVID testing and contact tracing

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — There are renewed calls to drastically increase the state’s capacity to test and contact trace COVID cases from the lieutenant governor. He now says someone else from the State Department of Health should be in charge of those tasks.

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Lt. Gov. Josh Green has criticized health department director Dr. Bruce Anderson and State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park on this issue before. He says it’s not that he wants them fired from their jobs. Green says he just wants someone else to be in charge of testing and contact tracing.

“We need some new management of the solution. It’s not that difficult, it just is going to require a lot of full-time managers and people on the ground,” said Lt. Gov. Dr. Green.

He says he and other health experts have been calling on DOH to hire more contact tracers and do more testing. Both Anderson and Park have said there will be enough when the surge comes.

Green says the time has come and we’re only doing more than 2,000 tests daily when we should be at 10,000. And we have fewer than 100 tracers when we need up to 500.

“This was a failure and the reluctance and the animosity towards those who made recommendations to test and trace was very evident,” said Green.

State senators with the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 also expressed frustration after visiting DOH on Friday to see contact tracers at work. Senators say tracers were clearly overworked and overwhelmed, working 12-hour shifts, and prioritizing to cases who are more vulnerable.

“Some of them had almost 200 cases, that’s where they had to make some difficult calls and prioritizing those calls,” said Sen. Donovan Dela Cuz.

He adds that the committee will work with the health department to use the Hawaii Convention Center as a call center. Similar to the way the labor department used it to handle the surge of unemployment claims.

As for Green’s push to put someone else in charge, that’s up to the governor. He sent a statement saying, “I am in ongoing discussions with DOH leadership on ways to improve our testing and contact tracing systems and capacity. And we are confident that plans and resources are being put in place to meet the needs of our community.”

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