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Hawaii health, public safety chiefs retire amid COVID surge

August 31, 2020 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — Directors leading Hawaii’s health and public safety department are retiring amid a surge in coronarvirus cases on Oahu and an ongoing outbreak at the state’s largest jail.

Gov. David Ige announced Monday the retirements of Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson and Department of Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda.

Anderson will retire on Sept. 15. Dr. Libby Char, an emergency physician, will take over.

Espinda will take personal leave through September and will officially retire on October 1. Maria Cook, the deputy director for administration, will be interim director and Espinda will be available for advice before October.

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The Department of Health has been criticized over its contact tracing efforts as Hawaii has seen an alarming surge in reported coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

A COVID-19 outbreak infected more than 200 people at the state’s largest jail and officials ordered the release of nonviolent inmates Aug. 16 over concerns there was not enough room to properly socially distance and stop the virus from spreading.

“Both directors have served admirably under extremely challenging conditions, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gov. Ige in a statement. “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.”