New DOH director sets priorities for COVID-19 response

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) –It was the first day on the job for Dr. Libby Char, the new Director of the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH). Dr. Char’s Sept. 16 press conference was her first public appearance in her new role, and she said she will work on gaining the public’s trust.

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Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor David Ige revamped the state’s response to the virus.

Ige said, “We are here to announce new leadership that will be responsible for moving our COVID-19 efforts forward.”

Dr. Char is an emergency physician, and she has shared her expertise with fire and emergency agencies across the state. She was tapped by the governor to lead the DOH after Dr. Bruce Anderson announced his retirement.

Char steps into the position amid criticism of the Department by lawmakers, who said the COVID-19 response was slow and lacked transparency.

Char said, “I will work to improve the public trust in the Department of Health, understanding that this trust must be earned.”

The new DOH director said collaboration with county and private partners will be part of her leadership.

Char said, “We really need to foster better collaboration between the state, the counties and the private health care partners, and work together in order to build a successful network of good health.”

A State data dashboard went online earlier this month in efforts to keep the public informed on the impacts of the virus. The dashboard tracks current active cases and COVID-19 testing turnaround, among other metrics.

Char will work alongside Dr. Emily Roberson, who recently took over the state’s contact tracing efforts.

“She and her team have been training and partnering with additional contact tracers,” Char said. “Partnering with the City and County of Honolulu and community health centers, and working with schools and care homes.”

Dr. Sarah Park, who previously led the DOH Disease Investigation Branch, remains on paid leave.

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