Hokulea Sails Through Florida and Georgia Via Intracoastal Waterway

Since departing Titusville, Florida, on Friday, April 8, 2016, Hokulea has been traveling north on the Intracoastal Waterway making overnight stops at Palm Coast and St. Augustine.

Hokulea Canal

Last night, she entered the state of Georgia for the first time and docked in Brunswick. Tonight, the canoe and crew are staying overnight in Fort McAllister, GA and plan to depart first thing tomorrow morning to continue the voyage up the East Coast.

Watch Captain Kaniela Lyman-Mersereau preps the tow line in anticipation of departure from Titusville Marina. Mahalo nui to everyone who came out to show their support and wish us well as we begin Leg 19.

Watch Captain Kaniela Lyman-Mersereau preps the tow line in anticipation of departure from Titusville Marina. Mahalo nui to everyone who came out to show their support and wish us well as we begin Leg 19.

The Hokulea and crew are scheduled to be part of the Charleston Outdoor Festival in South Carolina on April 15.

hokulea 41116

During the voyage up the Intracoastal Waterway, Hokulea has sailed under several bridges and the crew has spotted various kinds of wildlife including manatees, pelicans, dolphins and flamingoes.

Hawaii State Department of Health’s Restaurant Inspection Website Goes Live

The Hawaii State Department of Health has launched a new online portal that lets consumers see how Hawaii restaurants and other food service organizations fare in food safety inspections, starting first with Oahu inspection data.

As of 4/11/2016, I was not able to access the site.

Access to data from food safety inspection reports, complete with descriptions of violations, gives consumers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at food safety and sanitation practices — or a lack of them — at the food outlets they frequent.

“We’re taking transparency to an entirely new level,” said Peter Oshiro, who manages the food safety inspection program. “Information from the inspection reports empowers consumers and informs their choices.”

The online portal, which has taken nearly a year to develop and refine, is a companion component to the Hawaii State Department of Health’s placard program, which was launched in July 2014. Under the placard program, food outlets are given a green, yellow or red placards, and are required to post them in visible location at their entrances.

The color-coded placards indicate whether a food establishment has passed its health inspection, received a conditional pass, or has been closed due to permit suspension. Restaurants are fined for not posting them.

“Data from the inspection reports give consumers the details behind the green, yellow or red placards, which many have become accustomed to seeing near the entrances of restaurants or other places that serve food,” Oshiro said.

“Our observant inspectors are capturing every detail for their reports using established science-based criteria,” he added. “With this degree of disclosure, we believe the online reports will make restaurants and other food service organizations pay closer attention to their food safety and sanitation practices.”

Just as the publicly-posted placards provide an incentive for restaurants and other food service organizations to rectify any food-handling or other safety issues, the publicly-available data from the inspection reports are expected to motivate restaurants to take a closer look at their own practices since these reports become a permanent, historical record accessible to the public.

“About 25 percent of the locations we inspect receive a yellow card. We hope to see this rate steadily decline with this new website,” Oshiro said. “We can now show what a bad inspection looks like on a public site. This should be a great catalyst for the industry to improve their food safety practices and make internal quality control a priority before our inspections.”

Oshiro’s team has manually posted all of the previous Oahu inspections to the public portal and currently has nearly 7,000 inspection reports in the database. This represents about 80 percent of all the inspections completed statewide since the program began in July 2014. Oshiro anticipates the remaining Oahu inspection reports will be uploaded by May 2016. Past neighbor island inspections will be uploaded by the end of the year. Going forward, all inspection reports from all islands will be posted in near real-time, depending upon the availability of secure, wireless access.

More than 10,000 food establishments statewide prepare or serve food and require a Department of Health permit to operate their business. There are roughly 6,000 such establishments on Oahu, 1,800 on Hawaii Island, 1,700 on Maui, and 700 on Kauai. This includes restaurants, hotels, caterers, food warehouses, markets, convenience stores, lunch wagons, push carts, and institutional kitchens for healthcare facilities, schools, adult and child day care centers, and prisons.

The Hawaii State Department of Health began posting color-coded placards as part of the state’s “Food Safety Code” (Hawaii Administrative Rules, Title 11, Chapter 50, Food Safety Code) adopted in 2014. The placards are posted after each health inspection is completed at every food establishment that holds a Department of Health permit.

The Hawaii restaurant inspection website is at http://hi.healthinspections.us/hawaii.

Senator Schatz Visits CDC Headquarters, Meets with Top Official to Discuss Zika, Dengue Response in Hawaii

As the outbreaks of Zika and dengue continue to threaten communities in the United States and around the world, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters and met with top officials to discuss the CDC’s response to outbreaks in Hawai‘i.

Senator Brian Schatz in Puna after Hurricane Iselle

Senator Brian Schatz in Puna after Hurricane Iselle

During the meetings, Senator Schatz called for stronger vector-control programs to fight the spread of mosquito-borne viruses. Zika and dengue are transmitted by the same mosquito population, making vector-control programs a key component to preventing outbreaks.

“Dengue remains a public health emergency on Hawai‘i Island, and with new possible Zika cases in the state, we need more support from the CDC to fight these outbreaks,” said Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “While we continue to secure more funding, I am pleased we were able to get a commitment from the CDC to address dengue and the threat of Zika in Hawai‘i.”

Last month, Senator Schatz led eight senators in calling on the Senate Appropriations Committee to increase funding for mosquito-control programs.

During an appropriations hearing in February, Senator Schatz urged the Director of the CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden, to coordinate with state and local governments to improve mosquito-control programs to help stop the spread of both dengue and Zika.

Hawai‘i has had over 250 confirmed cases of dengue since September 2015, mostly concentrated on Hawai‘i Island. Like dengue, Zika can be transmitted by mosquitos. Zika has been spreading throughout the Americas and has been linked with neurological ailments such as paralysis and devastating birth defects. The CDC has issued its highest alert level for Zika, while the World Health Organization has declared it a global health emergency.