Waipi‘o Valley Public Access Closed July 3-6

In anticipation of large crowd gatherings combined with the lack of resources to enforce COVID safe physical distancing practices, the County of Hawai‘i Department of Public Works  announces that public access to Waipi‘o Valley will be closed from 7 a.m. Friday, July 3, through Monday, July 6.

Special duty officers and Waipi‘o Valley Rangers will be on site at the top of the road leading into the valley, to ensure that valley access is restricted to local traffic only (residents, land owners, and farmers). Local traffic will be allowed to pass through a single-vehicle at a time. 

The County of Hawai‘i Department of Public Works apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause and thanks the community for their patience and understanding. As the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaches, the public is reminded to please keep up the good work of preventive measures such as face masks, social distancing and hand hygiene.

If there are any questions or concerns, call the Department of Public Works at (808) 961-8321.

HVNP 2020 Cultural Festival Goes Virtual

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park’s annual Cultural Festival, normally scheduled the first Saturday in July for nearly 40 years, will instead be held virtually July 5 through July 11 on social media due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We are excited to share Hawaiian culture by adapting one of our most cherished park events so everyone can participate virtually and safely on our official Facebook page,” said Park Ranger Kekoa Rosehill. 

True to the festival’s legacy, Hawaiian culture will be shared with a wide audience free of charge. But instead of gathering the community and visitors together in person, the park will share short videos and other mana‘o (knowledge) about Hawaiian culture virtually, starting this Sunday, July 5 and culminating on Saturday, July 11. Visit Facebook https://www.facebook.com/hawaiivolcanoesnps/ to participate. 

Innovative Internship Helps Honoka‘a Businesses

A new paid internship program in Honokaʻa is bringing together local youth, businesses and innovation coaches in an effort to help the community recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout.

Honoka’a business owner Myrna Green will get help with an e-commerce site through the program. PC: Sarah Anderson Photography

“We really felt that sense of despair moving through the community and our businesses, and it was especially evident in our high school graduates,” said Kei-Lin Cerf, director of the Kō Education Center (KōEC), formerly the North Hawaiʻi Education & Research Center, which is Hawaiʻi Community College’s Hamakua-North Hawaiʻi branch. “And we felt the most important thing we could do is get them working on hands-on projects that showed a positive pathway forward and demonstrated innovation as a path to recovery.”

Community leaders came together in a volunteer group named Connect Aloha, to contribute to the COVID-19 response, helping with food distribution and making keiki masks. They also helped KōEC develop a unique internship program now known as the “Small Business Innovation Challenge.” It was designed specifically to help local businesses adjust to the new COVID-19 environment and reduce reliance on tourism. Under the program, a team that consists of an intern, a business seeking to innovate, and an innovation coach collaborate to help the business rebound and be more resilient in the future.

“I give a lot of credit to the Connect Aloha group,” said Cerf. “They invested their time and energy to provide us with the voice of real businesses, real parents, real teachers and real community members so that we could create something valuable for them.”

Internship details

Interns, who work on projects remotely to maintain social distancing, may help a business establish online sales capacity or develop online functions to help with curbside takeout, for example.

“There will be lots of marketing and communications projects,” said Cerf. “We believe that aspect is going to help all of our businesses during this time.”

Oriah Nagahiro, a Laupāhoehoe Community Public Charter School 2020 graduate, is working with the Honokaʻa Business Association to develop their brochure and is learning photoshop to enhance pictures.

“I originally joined because I love jumping into new opportunities and experiences I’ve never done before,” Nagahiro said. “I’ve learned so much since the day I started, having to work with many different types of people and managing time and schedules. It makes me feel more sure of myself because I have a feeling of what working with an employer is like.”

The internships, which are part of KōEC’s Careers Pathways Alliance for Student Success (CareerPASS), are already underway with 15 interns matched with businesses and organizations.

Interns get paid a stipend of up to $500 and are expected to work a minimum of 25 hours, with 10 hours of training and 15 hours of project work.

Though the first round of internships are already underway, applications remain open because KōEC hopes to continue the internships in the fall. Interns must be 16–21 years old and a currently enrolled student or a recent alumni of Laupāhoehohe CPCS, Honokaʻa High School, Kanu o ka ʻĀina Charter School or, Kohala High School (Classes of 2018–2020).

Two options for businesses

Businesses have the option of the traditional internship model in which they work directly with the intern, providing training and guidance. The other option is the “business-as-client” model in which the intern and an intern coach work on a project for the business. This model relieves the business of the workload of managing the intern.

“One of the big barriers for businesses is they rarely have a staff person available to do that coaching or mentoring,” said Cerf.

Community support

The program is funded with a Community Engagement and Resources grant from Kamehameha Schools West Hawaiʻi Region.

“We value our community partners and know that working together we can make a difference in the communities where our Native Hawaiian beneficiaries live, and the programs that they take part in,” said Kaimana Barcarse, Kamehameha Schools West Hawaiʻi region director. “It is great to be able to work with our partners as they develop innovative solutions to tailor a meaningful program to the unique needs of both the learner and business community in an area where internships were not the norm.”

Businesses don’t need to have projects specific to adapting to COVID-19 to participate. They can have interns working on other projects that will develop the interns’ college and career readiness skills.

The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope will host an intern who will develop an image repository and social media content calendar.

“Like so many other local businesses, our annual summer internship program was suspended due to COVID-19,” said Mary Beth Laychak, director of strategic communications at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. “The speed at which the Kō Education Center transitioned to a remote program was incredible.”

Zonta Club of Hilo Offers Small Business MicroGrant for Women Entrepreneurs in East Hawaii

The Zonta Club of Hilo is accepting grant applications to provide funding for women-owned businesses in East Hawai’i. Women who are seeking financial support to start up or improve upon a business are encouraged to apply. Applications are available through their website zontahilo.org and are being accepted via email zontapayitforward@gmail.com or mail through midnight on Friday, July 31, 2020.

Zonta Club of Hilo awarded two Pay-It-Forward microgrants in 2019.

The Pay It Forward program of the local chapter of Zonta was launched in 2014 with an initial generous donation from Nancy Cabral, a member of Zonta and owner of Day-Lum Rentals & Management, Inc./ Coldwell Banker Day Lum Properties. Ms. Cabral’s desire is to encourage other women to achieve financial independence and business success.

The program goal is to help women in our community start up or expand a business through a microgrant intended to give a helping hand. The grant will be for up to $2,000. Awardees are required to submit a written report after one year, and will be asked to present the report to the club. Awardees are encouraged to “Pay It Forward” when they are able. 

“Encouraging women to succeed in their goals to provide a better community for East Hawai’i is an important part of the mission of our club. The Pay It Forward Program is one of the many programs our club offers to empower women and girls through service and advocacy. This year marks the 100thanniversary of Zonta International,” said Zonta Club of Hilo President Elyse Robinson.

Applications may also be requested by mailing:

Zonta Club of Hilo
Pay It Forward Program
P.O. Box 1915
Hilo, HI  96721-1915

For more information, visit the website zontahilo.org or email zontapayitforward@gmail.com.

The Zonta Club of Hilo is a member of Zonta International, whose mission is to empower women through service and advocacy. Hilo Club projects include Fashion Frenzy, Magnificent Me Girls Conference, college scholarships and Amelia Earhart Girls in Engineering Day. www.zontahilo.org

COVID-19 Drive-Through Testing in Honoka‘a & North Kohala

Premier Medical Group, with the support of the County of Hawai‘i, Hope Services and the Hawaii National Guard, will offer COVID-19 drive-through screening and testing clinic at the Honoka‘a Sports Complex lower entrance on Friday, May 1, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Access through the Akia Street entrance.

COVID-19 drive-through testing will also happen at Kamehameha Park in Kapa‘au on Saturday, May 2 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. 

These free clinics are open to the public; however, individuals must first undergo a screening to determine if they meet the criteria to be tested. Clinic physicians on site will make the determination regarding testing. The screening criteria will be based on guidance of the CDC and the State’s COVID-19 Response Task Force.

People who visit the screening clinics will be asked to show photo ID.  Additionally, people are requested to bring their own pen, and any health insurance cards they have, although insurance is not required.

For further information, call Hawaii County Civil Defense at (808) 935-0031. 

Pantries Opened to Provide Pet Food for Families Impacted by COVID-19

As part of the mission to enhance the bond between humans and animals and the commitment to keep families together, Hawaii Island Humane Society is opening Community Pet Pantries to provide pet food for those families impacted by COVID-19.

The Community Pet Pantry program is targeted at those who have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis including community members who have lost their jobs, frontline healthcare workers, kupuna and those at high risk or immuno-compromised.   

“All of us at the Hawaii Island Humane Society want to make sure that the economic circumstances facing everyone in our community is not a crisis for your pets,” said HIHS Community Program Director Lauren Nickerson.

As supplies allow, Hawaii Island Humane Society will provide a 2-week supply of pet food to those in need. The amount of pet food received is based on the weight of your pet. Community members can request pet food by logging on to hihs.org/item/pet-pantry or by calling any of the shelter locations in Keaau, Waimea or Kona. After an application is received, a member of the HIHS team will call to schedule a pick up. Pet food pick up is by appointment only at the three shelter locations.  Bring your government issued ID when picking up your pet food. 


“The Hawaii Island Humane Society Community Pet Pantries rely solely on donations and we anticipate a greater need in the community, ” said HIHS Community Program Director Lauren Nickerson. “We continue to need donations of new, unopened bags and cans of adult dog food, adult cat food, puppy food and kitten food. Donations can be dropped off at any of our three shelter locations.” 

For those who want to help from the safety of their own home, donations can be made by purchasing pet food from our Amazon wishlist. Log on at http://www.hihs.org/donations/wish-list

Need more information? Call any one of the shelters locations and select option 0. Keaau Shelter 808-966-5458, Waimea Shelter 808-885-4558 and Kona Shelter 808-329-1175.

Gov. Ige Releases Funds for Hale Hoʻōla Hāmākua

Sen. Lorraine R. Inouye announced that Gov. David Ige recently released funds for a Capital Improvement Project involving Hale Hoʻōla Hāmākua in Honoka‘a.

An amount of $2.1 million will be used for renovations, specifically for design, construction, and equipment funds for renovations, restoration, improvements, refurbishments, upgrades, and repairs at the hospital.

“I am thankful that the Governor has released the funds for facility renovations at Hale Hoʻōla Hāmākua,” said Sen. Inouye. “My constituents along the Hamakua coast will be grateful for
this upgrade.”

Hale Hoʻōla Hāmākua is a 77-bed Critical Access Hospital located in the rural town of Honokaa‛a. The facility is a Medicare and Medicaid Certified provider and is licensed by the State of Hawaii Department of Health.

Hilo Residents Displaced by County Homeless Sweep Removed Despite CDC, Nonprofit Warnings

Hope Services Hawaii released the following statement regarding the homeless sweep that was done in Hilo on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

At 6:00 on the morning of April 7th, residents of the camp behind Agasa Furniture were awakened by the blast of a loudspeaker announcing that their home would be demolished in 30 minutes. Occupants were instructed by Hawaiʻi County workers to remove their belongings and vacate the premises, and were not offered alternate shelter arrangements.

PC: Hope Services

The day before, in a series of meetings between Community Alliance Partners (or CAP, a network of organizations providing services to people experiencing homelessness), and members of Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim’s cabinet, the county was repeatedly advised to follow CDC guidelines highlighting the public health risks of conducting a sweep.

The guidance, taken from a CDC webpage entitled “Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) among People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness,” states:

“Unless individual housing units are available, do not clear encampments during community spread of COVID-19. Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.”

Brandee Menino, the CEO of HOPE Services Hawaii, the island’s largest homeless services provider, was present at the meetings. She says that CAP representatives advised the mayor’s cabinet that, if the county chose to ignore the CDC and move forward with plans to clear the site, it must provide a relocation plan for residents. 

Menino went on to say, “Together, we developed a plan where the county would demarcate 12-foot squares under the Bayfront Soccer Fields, open up the bathrooms, and provide HOPE Services with advance notice of a sweep.” She says the cabinet members agreed to advise the mayor to accept the plan. “While we’d hoped the mayor would protect the community by canceling the sweep, we were at least assured that we’d have enough notice to help people move to a temporary location, so that we could help them make long-term arrangements.”

Early the next morning, however, Menino was shocked to hear that the sweep was in progress, without the relocation plan.

HOPE Outreach Team Lead, Carrie Hoʻopiʻi, was on her way to Kona to help secure housing for kūpuna during the pandemic, when members of her team alerted her to the sweep. Upon returning to Hilo, she found approximately twelve HPD officers, fifteen county workers, and a bulldozer at the site of the camp. Twelve of the approximately fifteen camp residents were present.

Hoʻopiʻi says that when she arrived, a loudspeaker was announcing to shocked residents that they’d have thirty minutes to gather their possessions and leave. She and her staff worked furiously to help residents pack and remove their belongings, but it wasn’t enough time. “I asked for an extension, and they gave me fifteen minutes,” she says. “It wasn’t enough, but we worked together to remove as many belongings as possible, including items belonging to the three residents who weren’t home. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get everything out.”

PC: Hope Services

Immediately following the sweep, two members of the camp were picked up by family members and taken to a home they had secured on their own. Two people were taken to HOPE’s emergency assessment center, and one was admitted to the men’s shelter. Later that evening a second man from the camp entered the men’s shelter.

“Our shelters are already operating at or near capacity, and squeezing more people in is not an option at a time when we are following CDC social distancing guidelines,” says Menino.  While Carrie [Hoʻopiʻi] met individually with each camp resident, exchanging contact information, and encouraging them to stay in touch with us, we don’t know where the remaining residents will go, or if we’ll be able to find them.”

Hoʻopiʻi says that in the preceding weeks, her team visited the camp about 3 times a week–providing them with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and educating them about preventing the spread of COVID-19. She says residents were complying and were willing to follow safety guidelines. She also says that her team had planned to enter the camp and physically help the residents to rearrange their tents in order to maximize social distancing. Unfortunately, these plans were cut short by the county’s demolition of their camp.

PC: Hope Services

“The decision to demolish the camp has traumatized a community, and has created yet another public health risk” says Dr. Kāʻohimanu Dang Akiona, a physician with Premier Medical Group, who had regularly visited the encampment to provide medical care with HOPE’s Street Medicine Team. “We went from having an established location where we monitored people’s health and provided necessities like food and PPE, to a situation where they have no choice but to go out into the community to get these items.”

Rising housing costs and stagnant wages have made the homelessness crisis even more urgent in recent years, with over half of Hawaiʻi Island residents struggling to pay rent, even before the pandemic hit. When asked why the residents of the camp became homeless, Hoʻopiʻi replied without hesitation, “For the majority, they became homeless because they can’t afford housing. They all want housing, but just can’t afford it.”

The Hawaii Police Department released the following statement:

Hawaii Police and other county and state agencies addressed the replenishment of illegal structures behind Agasa Furniture today (04-07-2020).


At 6:30 AM police along with other agencies that included Hope Services removed about 12 people and various structures located on a lot behind Agasa Furniture. Court proceedings held on Monday (April 6) resulted in the granting of a motion in favor of the County of Hawaii. Part of the courts granting of the motion included the appointment of a commissioner who will oversee the legal proceedings moving forward.


The operation was aimed at permanently removing all illegal structures from the lot and included help from Hope Services who offered alternative housing and assistance for the people on the property. There were about 4 people that took advantage of the services, the remaining people elected to seek assistance on their own.
The operation was completed at about 12:00 PM and now includes fencing and “No Trespassing” signage to prevent any further activity on the property.
Police reported that the people that were on the property were cooperative, and there was no enforcement action needed. There was an abandoned vehicle left on the property that was removed.
Lieutenant Robert Almeida of the South Hilo Community Policing Section, who supervised the police part of the operation said, “It was a joint effort, and it was a long process that involved patience, perseverance and everyone working together. We appreciated the cooperation of the all people involved. In all this was a successful operation here.”


The operation was a County response to complaints about the property that resulted in a similar operation about a year ago to illegal structures and development on the lot without permits.

Puna Hui Donates Masks to Hilo Medical Center

A small neighborhood group in the Puna District of the Big Island of Hawaii, has donated hundreds of surgical masks to the emergency room at the Hilo Medical Center (HMC).

The “Pahoa Mask Mission Hui,” founded by a group of three residents in the Kalapana Seaview neighborhood, collected and donated 60 N-95 masks and close to 400 hand-made masks. The Hui is led by Annie Stiefel, Bob Kirk and Mary Rose Love.

When delivering the masks, retired nurse Mary Rose Love, reported that the staff were “absolutely delighted.”  A security guard asked for a size large mask and as it was handed to him, he exclaimed, “this is my lucky day!”

Hawaii is just now seeing a surge in coronavirus cases. The state is weeks behind the mainland but has seen daily increases of 10% cases or more per day, with the current count at over 224 cases as of March 31 (15 on Hawaii Island). With only 11 critical care beds, HMC provides care to a population of over 40,000 people. It could easily be overwhelmed. 

According to Stiefel, on Friday, March 20th, she saw the Corona Virus Deaconess news article asking the public to sew masks for hospitals. “A friend who is an ER nurse at HMC messaged me that they indeed need them and would be so grateful for them, which really spurred me on.”

“I posted it on my FB page asking ‘who has a sewing machine and wants to help? I started organizing and gathering supplies that day and asking neighbors and friends to help,” said Steifel. “Everyday I’ve been getting more volunteers. There are a dozen of us now. The Mask Mission Hui!” 

Some have donated money or materials, some precut the fabric and some sew. “In our first week we delivered 430 masks to HMC (60 were new store-bought masks that people had left from the lava flow of 2018), each a labor of love and caring,” said Stiefel. “Each of us are sleeping a little better at night knowing we are doing something to help.”

“We gave 5 masks to a family that has one member that has been tested but they are awaiting results; they have isolated that one person within their home, so they are using masks and gloves within their own home,” said Love. “And, we gave three to the Seaview FedEx delivery person who feels much more comfortable with her work conditions now.”

For more information or if you would like to contribute to the Puna Mask Mission Hui, contact Annie Stiefel at Anniesands@gmail.com.

Catering & Food Trucks to Deliver Free Meals to Kūpuna

Mayor Caldwell, along with Aloha Beer owner Steve Sombrero announced today a coalition of Catering and food truck operators will deliver free meals to Hawaiʻi’s kūpuna during this COVID-19 period. This coalition is self-funded but is looking for grants from local foundations and donors to support this project.

The Coalition has created a website called “Malama Meals COVID-19 Community Meal Program” with the goals of supporting kūpuna, who are encouraged to stay out of the public for the next 15 days. This program will provide meals to seniors who live in senior centers along with keiki who depend on school meal programs.

Department of Community Services Director, Pamela Witty-Oakland, shared, “our Elderly Affairs team is excited to launch this partnership, which will supplement our existing meal delivery program to home-bound seniors and expand that network to help our kūpuna at senior housing across the island get nutritious meals that will allow them to stay in their homes as we all try to help flatten the curve.”  Some of the projects receiving daily meals will include:

  • Whitmore Circle Apartments
  • Kumuwai, the City’s newest project which provided permanent housing to previously homeless seniors
  • Mānoa Gardens
  • Nā Lei Hulu Kūpuna
  • Franciscan Vistas ʻEwa Beach
  • West Loch Elderly Village
  • Additional sites still being confirmed

The City & County of Honolulu, Department of Community Services, also serves as the Area Agency on Aging.  Our County Executive on Aging, Derrick Ariyoshi, and his team have been working hard with our network of senior care providers to ensure that in-home and meal services to the thousands of seniors we serve will continue uninterrupted.  Catholic Charities of Hawaiʻi has also been a key partner in reaching out to the senior housing to be served through this program.

Coalition Partners currently include Owner of Aloha Beer Steve Sombrero, Debra Espino of Applebee’s, IHOP and Olive Garden Restaurants, Ahmad Ramadan of Da Spot, Gilbert Sakaguchi of Blue Water Shrimp, and Dan Port of Aloha Venues. In coordination with public service and non-profit community organizations, Malama Meals mission is to provide food security to individuals and communities in need or at risk to contain COVID-19.

Those in need can also request meals online at Malama Meals website, www.malamameals.org.

Administrative Leave Offered to County Workers

In a memo from Mayor Kim to Hawaii County Department and Agency Heads sent on Friday, March 20, 2020, Mayor Kim authorizes Administrative Leave due to closures of Schools or Child Care Facilities because of the current COVID-19 emergency.

Administrative leave of up to 14 calendars days was authorized.

NHCH Announces Relocated COVID-19 Testing

Drive-up testing at Queen’s North Hawai’i Community Hospital (QNHCH) will be relocated to a more convenient location starting Thursday, March 19, and testing will be expanded to 6 days a week – Monday through Saturday, 10 am – 2 pm.

The new location is at the QNHCH Primary Care Clinic, 65-1267 Kawaihae Rd., located next to Longs Drugs in Waimea. Physician’s orders are not required. Patients are asked to bring ID and insurance information, and to stay in their vehicle; testing takes only a few minutes and is done while the patient stays in the vehicle.

For more information, visit coronavirus.gov or the State of Hawaii Department of Health new website hawaiicovid19.com or call the Queen’s COVID-19 Information Line at 691-2619.

2020 Census Field Operations Suspended

Less than one week ago, the 2020 Census fully kicked off, and invitations continue to arrive in mailboxes across the nation.  As of this morning, more than eleven million households have responded. America is stepping up to shape our future and ensure families and communities are counted.

Beginning today, in support of guidance on what we can all do to help slow the spread of coronavirus, 2020 Census field operations will be suspended for two weeks until April 1, 2020. The Census Bureau is taking this step to help protect the health and safety of the American public, Census Bureau employees, and everyone going through the hiring process for temporary census taker positions.

During this pause in field operations, the Census Bureau will continue to evaluate all 2020 Census operations. Should any additional adjustments need to be made, the Census Bureau will communicate these changes broadly and promptly. 

In late May, census takers around the nation will begin visiting households that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census to help complete the count. As we continue to monitor the evolving COVID-19 outbreak, we will adjust census taker and survey operations as necessary in order to follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities.

The public is strongly encouraged to respond to the 2020 Census online using a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet, and can also respond by phone or mail. Everyone should respond to the 2020 Census as soon as they receive their invitation — and when they’re finished, they can make sure their friends, families and social networks know about the importance of responding.  

It has never been easier to respond to the census, and the 2020 Census will count everyone accurately. We recognize that many people plan to access the 2020 Census through other response modes, such as phone or paper, which is why the 2020 Census has such a nimble design. 

On March 15, 2020, the Census Bureau announced several adaptations to our group quarters operations to accommodate recent scheduling changes on college campuses as leadership takes action to keep students and faculty safe.

For all other Census Bureau household and economic surveys separate from the 2020 Decennial Census, Bureau personnel will begin using phone calls instead of in-person visits. In the limited number of instances where an in-person visit is necessary, we are working closely with public health authorities to ensure each visit is accomplished safely.

Once again, we encourage everyone to respond online today at 2020Census.gov.  With the flexibility and support of the American people, we will achieve a complete and accurate count which helps guide funding decisions for things like hospitals, roads and emergency services. Respondents can also respond by calling the number provided in their invitation or by mail once they have received a paper form.  

~ U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham

NHCH Announces New Policies and COVID-19 Testing

North Hawaii Community Hospital

KAMUELA, HI – For the protection of our patients, staff, and community, starting on Monday, March 16 at 5 am, all staff and visitors will be screened for fever and exposure risk in the main entrance lobby prior to entering the hospital.

This will be the only entry point to the hospital and clinics apart from the emergency room. After successful screening, visitors and employees will be issued a “day pass” sticker and allowed to enter the hospital.

To further protect our patients, only one visitor will be allowed in the hospital per patient and no children under the age of 12 will be allowed in the hospital unless they are receiving care.

Effective Monday, March 16, testing for COVID-19 will be available WITH DOCTOR’S ORDERS Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 am – 2 pm outside the Lucy Henriques building.

For more information, visit coronavirus.org or call the Queen’s COVID-19 Information Line at 691- 2619.

Census Bureau Update on COVID-19 & 2020 Census Count

The U.S. Census Bureau is carefully monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and will follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities. We have also established the Census Bureau COVID-19 Internal Task Force to continuously monitor the situation and update our Pandemic Addendum to the Census Bureau Continuity of Operations (COOP) Plan. 

Our preparation and contingency planning centers on two key principles: The health and safety of our staff and the public is of the utmost consideration and importance. We must fulfill our constitutional obligation to deliver the 2020 Census counts to the President of the United States on schedule, and we must adhere to our core task of counting everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

The key message right now for anyone with questions about how COVID-19 will affect the 2020 Census: It has never been easier to respond on your own, whether online, over the phone or by mail—all without having to meet a census taker.

From March 12-20, households will receive the first of several invitations to participate in the 2020 Census.

We are encouraging everyone to respond online as soon as you receive your invitation with the provided instructions to go online. Instructions include the web address for the online questionnaire in English as well as where to respond online in 12 additional languages – ensuring over 99% of U.S. households can respond online in their preferred language.

The invitation will also include phone numbers for English and the 12 additional languages – ensuring over 99% of U.S. households can respond over the phone in their preferred language. Telephone assistance is available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. EDT for those who prefer to respond by phone.

Some households—in areas less likely to respond online—will receive a paper questionnaire in the first mailing; all households that have not responded online or by phone will receive a paper questionnaire between April 8 and April 16. The paper questionnaire includes a prepaid postage envelope to return it by mail.

Census takers plan to conduct the Nonresponse Followup operation in a handful of communities beginning as early as April 9, and across the country on May 13. Households can still respond on their own during this phase (online and phone response is available through July 31).

The Census Bureau will closely follow guidance from public health authorities when conducting this operation, as we do when conducting all field operations. 

If we need to delay or discontinue nonresponse follow-up visits in a particular community, we will adapt our operation to ensure we get a complete and accurate count. 

Currently, we are successfully conducting fieldwork for some of our non-decennial surveys by phone in areas where we are seeing an outbreak.

Similarly, partnership specialists are working with local partners and conducting meetings that may have been in person by phone and teleconference. 

We designed our 2020 operations precisely so we could offer multiple ways to respond. In so doing, we are able to make necessary adaptations at the local level for special operations as well. For instance, “group quarters,” the operation which counts people in nursing homes, college dorms, prisons and other institutional living facilities, includes a myriad of ways to respond, such as via eResponse, paper listing or self-enumeration by the facility. The same is true for “service-based enumeration” which counts people experiencing homelessness at the site where they receive services. The site administrators have multiple options for response.

In short, where a community, facility or service organization makes a change that would affect any field operation, we will adapt to make sure we are getting the same population counted another way.

We will work to share information about any change in operations with local authorities, community partners and the media. We will also work with community partners to continue to encourage self-response through the end of the nonresponse follow-up phase.

We also have significant contingency budget to address costs of operational changes. As needed, we will hire additional workers, manage operations out of different offices or mail additional reminders or questionnaires to areas affected by an outbreak.

We will continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate steps in consultation with public health authorities

Free Spay & Neuter for Pit Bulls

Hawaii Island Humane Society is hosting Spay & Neuter ANGEL Day at its Keaau Shelter on Wednesday, April 1 and Thursday, April 2. Spay & Neuter ANGEL Day is taking place in 41 cities across the nation and is sponsored by the Stand Up For Pits Foundation. 

During Spay & Neuter ANGEL Day, Hawaii Island Humane Society will be offering FREE spay & neuter surgeries for pit bull-type dogs and puppies at its Keaau Shelter. For the purpose of this event, a pit bull-type dog includes American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, American Bulldogs and their mixes. 

“Due to the popularity of these breeds in Hawaii, many dogs are pit bull mixes and without a DNA test, can be identified based on physical characteristics including blocky heads, short coats and a stockier build. There is no need for pet owners to provide proof of their dog’s breed,” said HIHS Community Programs Director Lauren Nickerson. “Unfortunately we will not be able to accept any dogs that appear vastly different than a pit bull at the ANGEL Day 2020 event.”

Space is Limited. All appointments must be scheduled in advance. Schedule your appointments by calling 329-8002 or emailing lauren@hihs.org. We are unable to accommodate drop-ins.

Ongoing spay and neuter services are also done at the Hawaii Island Humane Society’s locations in Keaau (1 day a week) and Kona (1 day a week) and it’s completely free. The Hawaii Island Humane Society also distributes free spay & neuter vouchers at the Keaau, Kona and Waimea shelters. The free vouchers can be used at participating veterinarians. 

The Hawaii Island Humane Society performs between 4,500 and 5,500 spay and neuter surgeries annually and nearly 50,000 in the last 9 years. 

Check out hihs.org for more information. 

About Stand Up For Pits Foundation

Angel is the founder of the Stand Up For Pits Foundation. April 2nd will be four years since Angel left this earth but her life and legacy lives on through millions of lives Spay & Neuter ANGEL Day saves and all that the Stand Up For Pits Foundation does. 

Spay & Neuter ANGEL Day is a massive and desperately needed Foundation initiative which fully funds the spay and neuters of pit bull-type dogs in cities across the country in loving memory of Angel. This year, 1,526 pit bull-type dogs will be fixed in 41 US cities at a cost of $150,000. 

Just one unaltered female dog and her offspring if also unaltered can produce an estimated 67,000 dogs over a 6-year period. 

Spaying and neutering is an effective way to stop needless loss of life. It is in fact, a solution since 85% of all dogs in US shelters are labeled pit bull-type dogs. Spay and neutering should be everyone’s priority. 

Check out standupforpits.us for more information.

Public Informational Meetings for Hawaii Beach Monitoring Program

The State Department of Health (DOH) will hold public informational meetings to present proposed changes to the Hawaii Beach Monitoring Program. Please click on the following links for the proposed Hawaii BEACH Monitoring Program Modification, and the Hawaii BEACH Program Presentation.

Persons wishing to comment on the proposed modification should submit their comments in writing no later than May 1, 2020, either through email at: cleanwaterbranch@doh.hawaii.gov, or by mail at: Clean Water Branch, 2827 Waimano Home Road, Room 225, Pearl City, Hawaii 96782.

Meetings have been scheduled for:


Tuesday, March 17, 2020 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM, J. Walter Cameron Center, conference room 2, 95 Mahalani St., Wailuku, HI


Thursday, March 19, 2020 from 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM, Hawaii District Health Center Office, 1582 Kamehameha Ave., Hilo, HI


Tuesday, March 24, 2020 from 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM, West Hawaii Civic Center, Building B, 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Hwy, Kailua-Kona, HI


Wednesday, March 25, 2020 from 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM, Kauai District Health Center Conference Room, 3040 Umi St., Lihue, HI


Tuesday, March 31, 2020 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM, Washington Middle School Cafeteria, 1633 South King St., Honolulu, HI

Sen. Inouye Announces Funding for Kahilu Theatre

Senator Lorraine R. Inouye (D-Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, and Kona, Hawai‘i Island) announced that $250,000 in general obligation bond funds were released by Governor David Ige for a Capital Improvement Project in the name of the Kahilu Theatre Foundation.

The funds are for improvements and renovations to the theatre located in Waimea.

Zonta Club of Hilo Gives $10,000 in Scholarships and Awards

The Zonta Club of Hilo presented $10,000 in scholarships and awards at its monthly membership meeting on July 8, 2019 at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel.  This year’s cash awards were presented in memory of former Zontian Katherine Lyle, who gifted the Zonta Club of Hilo with $5,000 as part of her trust.

From Left to Right: Kathleen McGilvray (Zonta Club of Hilo Scholarship Committee Chair), Kimberley Ann Mow (Nursing Scholarship), Kaitlyn Ashida (Nursing Scholarship), Kara Yoshiyama (Young Women in Public Affairs Award), Elyse Robinson (Zonta Club of Hilo President), and Andrea Christensen (Zonta Club of Hilo Scholarship Committee Member)

We were thrilled to recognize the achievements of seven outstanding women in Hawai‘i,” said Kathleen McGilvray, Zonta Club of Hilo scholarship committee chair.

The Young Woman in Public Affairs Award recognizes young women, ages 16-19, for demonstrating leadership skills and commitment to public service and civic causes, and encourages them to continue their participation in public and political life.  The 2019 recipient was Kara Yoshiyama, who received a $1,000 award.

The Nursing Scholarship is open to women enrolled in a nursing degree program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo or Hawai‘i Community College.  The 2019 recipients were Kaitlyn Ashida, who received a $2,000 scholarship, and Kimberley Ann Mow, who received a $1,000 scholarship.

The Women in Technology Scholarship is open to women pursuing a technology degree or closely related program or who are pursuing continued advancement in technology.  The 2019 recipients were Lino Yoshikawa, who received a $1,500 scholarship, Nola Bonis-Ericksen, who received a $750 scholarship, and Briana Noll, who received a $750 scholarship.

The Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship is open to women of any age enrolled in at least the second year of an undergraduate program through the final year of a Master’s program in business.  The 2019 recipient was Shawna Smith, who received a $3,000 scholarship.

Winners of these awards and scholarships (except for nursing) will be advanced from the club level to compete for additional awards and scholarships at the district and international level of Zonta.

Zonta Club of Hilo is member of Zonta International, whose mission is to empower women through service and advocacy.  One hundred years ago, a small group of pioneering women came together in Buffalo, New York with a vision to help all women realize greater equality while using their individual and collective expertise in service to their community.  Their vision became Zonta International, an organization that has grown to more than 29,000 members in 63 countries, working together to make gender equality a reality for women and girls worldwide.  November 8, 2019 marks Zonta’s centennial anniversary.

For more information, visit www.zontahilo.org.