The Director of the State Department of Health, Bruce Anderson, is stepping down, retiring effective September 15. Anderson was appointed to the position on an interim basis in May, 2018, following the retirement of Virginia Pressler. He was made permanent in the position in June of that year. Anderson previously served as Director of Health from 1999-2002 and as Deputy Director of Environmental Health from 1987- 1998 and, prior to that, as State Epidemiologist, and just prior to returning to State Department of Health, was with the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Anderson and the Department have been under fire for missteps relative to handling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Libby Char has been named to replace Anderson as the interim director.
Dr. Char is an Emergency Physician and a graduate of the UH Mānoa John A. Burns School of Medicine. After completing residency training in California, she returned to Hawai‘i to the clinical practice of Emergency Medicine at the Queen’s Medical Center. She previously served as the State of Hawai‘i EMS District Medical Director for Oahu.
The State Department of Health has been under heavy criticism for some aspects of its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially related to its apparent reluctance to do more widespread testing and its lack of transparency and ability to keep up with contact tracing. Governor David Ige said “… served admirably under extremely challenging conditions, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Governor went on to wish hiom well as he retires and will have time to spend time with family.
On August 25, Mayor Kirk Caldwell held a press conference which included the U.S. Surgeon General, Gov. David Ige, and Lt. Gov. Dr. Josh Green, among others. He announced that due to the surge in COVID-19 cases on O’ahu and the high positivity rate–above 5% then, and now hovering around 10%–the Federal Government was going to do mass testing for COVID-19. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said the goal was to test up to 70,000 people over the next week to determine how widespread the virus is on O’ahu. With more than 5,000 people with active cases of COVID-19 on O’ahu and heavy demand for testing, the current plan is to use part of the H-3 freeway to test people on Tuesday and Thursday.
However, that testing is not going completely smoothly: over the weekend, around 1,000 tests were apparently not labeled correctly and will have to be repeated.
Photo is Dr. Libby Char, courtesy of John A. Burns School of Medicine