Hawaii public health leadership appears to be in turmoil amid the coronavirus pandemic after the state’s embattled epidemiologist took paid vacation Friday.
Dr. Sarah Park was the third public health officer to recently depart.
Earlier this week, Bruce Anderson, director of the state health department, announced he would be stepping down, and Dr. Emily Roberson, who had recently been appointed head of the Hawaiian contact tracing operation, applied for leave, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported.
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The steps come as the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Hawaii rose to 79 and confirmed cases of the virus rose to more than 9,200, with both numbers rising sharply in the past two months, the newspaper reported.
They are also tracking health department departures in other states and cities as health officials face criticism of their job performance ̵
According to the report, Park has been harshly criticized for failing to develop strong testing and contact tracing programs for the state.
“The removal of Bruce Anderson and Sarah Park was an essential step in initiating a new executive process in the state of Hawaii,” said Dr. Scott Miscovich, President and Founder of the Premier Medical Group Hawaii, told the newspaper. “It is clear that aggressive use of testing, contact tracing and quarantine is the only way for our state to follow best practice guidelines from the rest of the world and stop the rise of COVID in Hawaii and the numerous deaths that are preventable . “
Deputy Director Danette Wong Tomiyasu will replace Park during her vacation.
Anderson’s resignation will take effect September 15th. His temporary replacement will be Dr. Libby Char, an emergency doctor, reported the Star Advertiser.
Health departments in other states and cities also had sales during the pandemic. Among them:
Earlier this week, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik resigned to join a think tank in Washington, DC, according to The Associated Press.
Kowalik was frustrated with trying to take action to mitigate the coronavirus, the Milwaukee Journal reported Sentinel.
In August, California’s Director of Public Health, Dr. Sonia Angell, back when it became known that technical issues had led to the state’s coronavirus cases being under counted.
Also in August, New York Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot resigned from her post just weeks after she reportedly told a senior city police officer, “I am not giving two rats a word about your cops.”
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In June, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice accepted Dr. Cathy Slemp, Commissioner for the Bureau of Public Health and state health officer, after the governor expressed a “lack of confidence” in her performance.
Also in June, Dr. Amy Acton returned as Ohio public health director just weeks after a judge ruled Acton’s order to shut down gyms in the state was “illegitimately arbitrary, unreasonable and oppressive,” ABC News reported.
Acton initially took on a different state role but was named director of Kind Columbus, a project of the Columbus Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization, in August, Cleveland.com reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.