It’s been an issue state and local government officials, business leaders and community groups have been pushing for months: how to make sure the Hawaii Department of Health has enough contact tracers to prevent the coronavirus from spreading out of control in the islands.

Now, a community organization for seniors is taking a new approach by asking the Hawaii Supreme Court to order the Department of Health to hire “an adequate number of contact tracers actively doing contact tracing.”

The petition, filed on behalf of the Kokua Council by Maui attorney Lance Collins and Honolulu attorney Bianca Isaki, also asks the court to provide enough foreign language interpreters and health information written in languages besides English to reach communities being hardest hit by the pandemic.

“Both CDC guidance and Hawaii state law require that contact tracing occur in the contact’s primary language and that health information related to limiting the spread of COVID-19 be provided to persons exposed in their primary language,” the Kokua Council said in a press release on Tuesday. “The Department is failing to do both. Pacific Islander and Filipino communities are being hardest hit but the lack of interpreters and written health information for contacts harms not just the individual but all of us who now face greater risk of community spread.”

Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo did not respond to a request for comment.

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