Five months after a California congresswoman asked Hawaii for answers about its public health response and its spending of federal money, Gov. David Ige hasn’t provided her with any information.

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, who chairs a House subcommittee on health, expressed concern in August about the state’s worsening COVID-19 outbreak, which was resulting in new cases of over 200 per day.

Masked Governor David Ige enters press conference during COVID19 pandemic. August 31, 2020
Gov. David Ige told the congresswoman he needed more time to respond. Months later, he hasn’t provided information. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

In an Aug. 19 letter, she asked about the status of contact tracing and testing, how federal funds were being spent, the state’s response to whistleblower claims that the state health department was reporting false contact tracer numbers, what “oversight and accountability” measures the state was implementing for contact tracing and what actions the state would take to “restore the integrity” of the health department.

“Congressional oversight is essential to ensure that states have the resources they need to adequately respond to the ongoing pandemic and that taxpayer dollars are being spent responsibly to serve the public health interest,” Eshoo wrote.

She requested a response to her questions on or before Aug. 28.

Civil Beat tried to get Ige’s response to Eshoo via a public records request in September. Ordinarily, the governor’s office would be expected to provide the record, or cite a reason they could not, within 10 days. However, during the pandemic, Ige has allowed government agencies to disregard those kinds of deadlines.

On Friday, after The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest contacted the Attorney General’s Office about the lack of response, Ige’s office shared a one-page letter he sent dated Sept. 2.

It is five sentences long.

“We are in receipt of your letter dated August 19, 2020. We share your concern about our recent increase in COVID-19 cases and I assure you that our departments are working around the clock to best address the situation.

“We are in the process of compiling the information requested and will require additional time to ensure that we provide the level of detail desired. We will provide a response as soon as possible.

“Thank you for your concern and the opportunity to share the hard work that we are doing.”

A representative from Eshoo’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

In an emailed statement, Ige Communications Director Cindy McMillan said the request from Eshoo was forwarded to the “departments that have been focused on pandemic activities” but they were “unable to provide the details requested.”

“To my knowledge, Rep. Eshoo has not sent a follow-up request,” McMillan said.

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