New Hawaii DOH contact tracing chief takes leave


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of Health (DOH) introduced Dr. Emily Roberson in August as the new Disease Investigation Branch Chief to take over contact tracing, but now she is on leave.

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We’re told that frustration led to Dr. Roberson stepping aside until the chain of command can be figured out.

This comes just after the announcement made on Aug. 31 that DOH Director Dr. Bruce Anderson will be retiring in the middle of September. Governor David Ige also announced that Dr. Libby Char will take over as interim director.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has spoken out multiple times against the DOH’s handling of the pandemic.

“It sounds like Dr. Roberson is being blocked from doing her job.” Congresswoman Gabbard explained. “Unfortunately, she has not been empowered to do her job. Look, this is why for months now I have been calling for Dr. Park to be removed from her position because I have heard numerous times from credible sources for months that she has been actively blocking people from trying to do their job to protect the health of the people of Hawaii.”

Gabbard is not alone in her criticism of the DOH, as House Rep. Scott Saiki also shared his disapproval with Always Investigating.

“Emily Roberson will be taking leave from her contact tracing position out of frustration working within the administration,” Rep. Saiki explained. “There is a problem with Sarah Park, the governor should remove Sarah Park immediately. She should not be allowed to obstruct the work of others who are trying to fix the contact tracing problem we have.”

On behalf of Dr. Park, the DOH declined to respond to criticisms about Park in particular.

The DOH told KHON2 that Deputy Director Danette Wong Tomiyasu will oversee contact tracing while Dr. Roberson is on leave.

There are currently 212 DOH contact tracers statewide.

“I just hope that Dr. Char is able to rein everyone in and provide direction there,” Rep Saiki said. “And the governor needs to support her efforts.”

The City and County of Honolulu recently announced that it intends to tee up a contact tracing effort staffed by hundreds more. The mayor’s spokesperson released a statement saying:

“We remain committed to standing up contact tracers in coordination with the State and Incident Commander General Kenneth Hara.”

City and County of Honolulu Spokesperson

Neither the county nor Hawaii Emergency Management Agency responded with details about how many have been hired, to whom they will report or where they will work from.

“It’s a bandaid solution creating all of these separate effort adds to confusion and disorganization,” Rep. Saiki said. “There should be one agency that is in charge of contact tracing in our state. It should be the health department and that’s why the governor needs to fix this immediately.”

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