Hawaii health, public safety directors retiring

State Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson, PhD, and Department of Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda are retiring, Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced Aug. 31.

"Both directors have served admirably under extremely challenging conditions, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I thank them for their many years of service to the people of Hawaii and wish them well as they retire and are able to spend time with their families," Mr. Ige said in a statement.

Dr. Anderson will retire Sept. 15. Mr. Ige has appointed Libby Char, MD, an emergency medicine physician, to serve as interim state department of health director effective Sept. 16. The appointment is subject to Hawaii Senate confirmation.

Mr. Espinda will retire Oct. 1. Mr. Ige said Maria Cook, deputy director for administration, will take over while Mr. Espinda is on personal leave through September.   

The retirements come as Dr. Anderson and Mr. Espinda have been criticized for their pandemic response, according to TV station KHON. Criticism against Dr. Anderson has reportedly been around the state's COVID-19 testing and contact tracing efforts.

Regarding Mr. Nolan's retirement, Hawaii Sen. Clarence Nishihara released this statement: "Like many across the state, I too have lost faith in DPS and its leadership team's ability to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our prison system. From the beginning, Director Espinda and the department were slow to implement proper safety protocols, such as testing for inmates and staff. Serious issues such as lack of personal protective equipment and unsafe conditions for uninfected inmates were never appropriately addressed by Director Espinda."

Hawaii has experienced an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, prompting hospitals on Aug. 25 to urge nurses, including recent nursing graduates, to step in to take care of patients. On Aug. 31, the Hawaii health department reported seven additional deaths from COVID-19 and 133 new cases. 


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