The embattled state epidemiologist blamed for slowing Hawaii’s coronavirus response has quietly left the Department of Health.
Dr. Sarah Park’s last day was Dec. 31, according to DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo, who did not give a reason for the separation. Park couldn’t be reached for comment.
Park had been placed on paid leave Sept. 4, just four days after Health Director Bruce Anderson announced he would retire. Both spoke publicly against mass testing and the need to get major help from outside the agency for contact tracing, sparking criticism of their leadership.
They were widely faulted for failing to build a robust COVID-19 testing and contact tracing program, and refusing help to bolster staffing from the Hawaii National Guard and testing by the City & County of Honolulu.
DOH whistle blower Jennifer Smith, the epidemiologist who was suspended with pay Sept. 4 after speaking out about the under-staffing of contact tracers, has criticized the department for fostering a “toxic” culture of fear that impeded the work of investigators trying to stop the spread of the disease.
Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist, will continue in that role while the department searches for a permanent head of the DOH Disease Outbreak Control Division.