State House Speaker wants more public information from DOH on COVID-19 cases


HONOLULU (KHON2) – With the Hawaii Department of Health under fire for its contact tracing capacity, one of the state’s top lawmakers is asking for more information to help the public.

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State House Speaker Scott Saiki is interested in modeling a process the Springfield-Green County Health Department in Missouri has implemented, which includes more information about COVID-19 community spread events.

The program announces times, places, and potential number of people exposed from a COVID-19 infected person that could risk community exposure. It also announces if the infected individual was wearing a mask or not.

“Aside from the basic protocols that we all need to follow it’s also important for the public to understand how COVID cases develop in Hawaii, what the circumstances are, and how human behavior contributed to the spread,” Speaker Saiki said.

The hope is that this will help Hawaii residents understand what situations and actions contribute to transmission. With privacy being a top concern, Speaker Saiki says there’s a way to work around it.

“I have no concerns about privacy because the Health Department can share information with the public without disclosing someone’s personal health information,” he said.

In regards to contact tracing, public notices of high-exposure events could help fill holes in DOH efforts. Governor David Ige said today that help is coming to increase staff for contact tracing, something that Speaker Saiki says needs to happen immediately.

“We needed to develop contact tracing capacity,” explained Saiki. “Because that is one way that we are going to contain the spread. So we began working with agencies like the school of nursing to develop contact tracing programs. The school of nursing has done an excellent job of training about 400 tracers so far, and we just want the health department to start using these contact tracers now.”

A request for comment from the Department of Health was not made at the time of publishing.

Speaker Saiki has requested a response from the DOH by Friday.

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