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Gov. David Ige, Lt. Gov. Josh Green meet to smooth over coronavirus management issues

                                Gov. David Ige, left, and Josh Green.
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Gov. David Ige, left, and Josh Green.

After a tense few months, Gov. David Ige and his Lt. Gov. Josh Green are now working together to stop the coronavirus from spreading in Hawaii.

Green, an emergency room doctor on the Big Island who has been leading COVID-19 community preparedness efforts, said the two met yesterday to smooth over issues and will be joining together for a 2:30 p.m. news conference.

“I had a very good heart-to-heart conversation with the governor and we got on the same page about how I can best serve the people of Hawaii and prepare our health care response so that COVID-19 doesn’t overrun us,” Green said. “I was really appreciative of my communication with the governor and it was very helpful to focus on how I can best keep COVID-19 from overwhelming the health care system.”

Green has been part of Ige’s administrative effort on the pandemic and has openly pushed the governor and state officials to do more to prevent the spread — publicly advocating for turning away cruise ships and restricting travelers coming into the state.

Sources told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the governor had ordered some officials and state agencies not to work with Green, who was conspicuously missing at the governor’s near-daily coronavirus briefings.

Ige said at a news conference that he had not made any such orders and posted on Facebook that his lieutenant governor was not banned from news conferences and meetings, but that the state was “reinventing the way state government conducts business while implementing appropriate social distancing” and “bringing in those who are most directly involved with specific topics.”

Many in the public have been distraught by the seemingly petty politics playing out during a genuine health care crisis.

“The people didn’t elect no general to be over their health,” said Ken Lawson, faculty specialist at the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law, in a Facebook post. “We want the person we elected. A huge reason we elected (Green) was because he’s a doctor that cared. We couldn’t foresee this happening. This a new type of virus that ain’t nobody seen in our lifetime so that’s why we want somebody that at least has a medical background and who cares.”

Green earlier told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that his main priority has been “slowing the virus and saving lives.”

“Any strong recommendations on this crisis that I’ve made to stop cruise ships from coming (which could endanger our people), demanding broad testing statewide to see where the virus is, or pausing tourist travel to Hawaii to stop transmission have been made to prevent fatalities,” he said. “It would be hard for me to believe that any governor would remove their colleague from important responsibilities for doing that.”

Ige imposed this week statewide restrictions on Hawaii residents in an attempt to slow the spread of the disease and had earlier asked tourists to stay away. But his actions followed calls from Green and others in the medical community, as well as from some state officials and business leaders.

Today is the start of a mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors and residents returning to Hawaii.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health reported a total of 95 cases statewide, up six from Tuesday.

The distracting controversy even involved state legislators. Rep. Cynthia Thielen had called for the Legislature to appoint Green as Hawaii’s COVID-19 emergency director, even though the Capitol is shut down and House lawmakers are in quarantine until April 5, following a positive coronavirus test for Sen. Clarence Nishihara.

House Speaker Scott Saiki said lawmakers had no plans to reopen to address the controversy.

“We hope that the governor and the lieutenant governor can sit down and work this out for the benefit of the entire public,” he told the newspaper.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said yesterday the City and County of Honolulu has been working with federal, state and county authorities in responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Everyone is performing their respective roles. Now is not the time to play politics,” Caldwell said. “Now is the time to come together and work to protect the health and safety of the people of Hawaii.”

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