A day after massive public outrage over Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s decision to keep his lieutenant governor — a doctor with extensive emergency and public health experience — out of the inner circle leading the state’s coronavirus response, the two have apparently gotten back on the same track.
Ige and Lt. Gov. Josh Green met privately Wednesday evening in the governor’s fifth floor office for over an hour, Green said afterwards.
“It was about better understanding my role and trying to work more closely together,” Green said. “I greatly appreciate the clarity and what he told me he felt he needed from me. It was an extremely productive meeting.”
Cindy McMillan, Ige’s communications director, said the administration typically does not comment on meetings.
But Green said, “The governor and I were able to get on the same page as to how I can best help in the state’s health care response to coronavirus.”
As Civil Beat reported Tuesday, multiple sources said Ige had ordered staff and his Cabinet not to consult with Green, who Ige named his liaison on evaluating the local medical community’s readiness to deliver care for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.
The governor’s dropping of Green from involvement in meetings and decisions being made on the virus effort outraged many medical professionals and other state officials who see Green as a vital voice in how the state can keep the virus from spreading.
Green had been outspoken about what he sees as a slow response on the state’s part, especially the state health department’s decision to test only a limited number of people.
On Tuesday, after questions by Civil Beat about the tensions, Ige said Green was still the liaison but indicated that Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, the state adjutant general, was taking the lead on the state’s response to the virus, which now has numbered 95 cases in the islands.
He rejected reports that Green had been shunned from meetings and press conferences while acknowledging that the lieutenant governor had not been attending because of social distancing practices.
On Wednesday night, Green said he and Ige would appear at a press conference Thursday and on a town hall being organized and broadcast by Hawaii News Now. Civil Beat is also participating in the forum, which includes panels of experts discussing the state’s response, economic impact and medical issues.
Green did not elaborate on what else he and Ige discussed Wednesday evening, but he did say he met briefly with Hara and Ige’s chief of staff, Linda Chu Takayama, following the meeting.
The story about the clash between the governor and his LG drew immediate and widespread criticism of Ige and support for Green. The vast majority expressed outrage that Ige had effectively fired Green from helping with the state response. Some called Green a political showboater and said he should defer to Ige and his Department of Health.
Hawaii is now under a “stay at home, work at home” order from the governor until April 30. Schools are closed until that time and a mandatory 14-day quarantine was set to go into effect early Thursday for all passengers — visitors and residents — arriving into the islands.
Even as federal aid to the state is on its way as a result of a deal between Congress and the Trump administration late Wednesday, health officials at the state and national level warned that the health crisis could continue for months.
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