Hawaii State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park will take a paid leave of absence from the Department of Health starting Friday.
“During her leave, Deputy Director Danette Wong Tomiyasu is in full charge of all disease investigation and immunization activities under the Disease Outbreak Control Division,” the Health Department said in a statement this evening.
Park’s leave of absence comes a few days after Gov. David Ige announced the retirement of state Health Director Bruce Anderson.
Both Park and Anderson have been criticized for their handling of the Hawaii’s COVID-19 outbreak, which has worsened significantly during the last two months.
State legislators have expressed frustration with the Health Department regarding its response to COVID-19, and others, including U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, have called for the removal of Park and Anderson.
“The Department of Health is continuing to fully execute disease investigation and immunization activities for the state,” the department said in its statement. “This includes an accelerated expansion of contact tracing capacity.”
Dr. Emily Roberson was hired in July to lead Health Department’s Disease Investigation Branch, including its contact tracing program.
Roberson requested leave on Wednesday, citing chain-of-command issues at the Health Department.
Department officials did not respond to questions about why Park is going on leave.