Whistleblower says DOH lying about number of contact tracers

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — With another day of triple-digit spikes in coronavirus cases, a whistleblower is speaking out. She’s a contact tracer with the Hawaii Department of Health who says officials are lying to us about how many are working to track down possible cases.

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

Dr. Jennifer Smith is with the health department’s Disease Investigative Branch, which is responsible for contact tracing. For months, the DOH has been saying it has close to 100 contact tracers. But Smith says the number is closer to 10.

“We need help, we sit there everyday crying out for help. We need more, that’s the bottom line. We don’t have enough and we need more,” she said.

Smith says she even had an anxiety attack as she saw the number of cases piling up. And that’s why she finally decided to speak out, despite the great efforts from her coworkers.

“I’m here as a virologist and public health professional to tell you that I’m so proud of the work our team has done and humbled by all their sacrifices,” said Smith.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who has been calling for Anderson and Park to step down, says the federal government gave DOH $50 million for contact tracing and testing. And now wants Congress to investigate to see what happened to that money.

“They spoke themselves of the need to prepare for this situation and yet they have failed to stop it all. They have lied to the people of Hawaii all along, saying don’t worry, we have it under control,” said Gabbard.

Gov. David Ige announced Thursday that Anderson and Park will no longer be in charge of contact tracing but Gabbard says they should be fired, and says he’s partly to blame.

“It is his responsibility to lead and to make sure that he has a team that the people of Hawaii can trust and that is not what we have,” said Gabbard.

The governor released a statement saying, “The recent restructuring of DOH’s Disease Investigation Branch is an important step in addressing the surge, and the department will continue to increase its capacity in the coming weeks.”

The health department did not respond specifically to the accusation of lying about contact tracers.

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