A Shake Up in Puna Political Powers?

Interesting developments in Puna politics here on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Hawaii Rep. Joy San Buenaventura is seeking out the seat that current Sen. Russell Ruderman is holding now.

Rep. San Buenaventura is seeking signatures now and posted the following on her Facebook page:

“With less than 2 weeks to nomination filing deadline and an intervening legislative session during a crisis that prevents gatherings, I am seeking signatures for my Senate run to represent all of Puna. Please DM [Direct Message] me if you are a Puna registered voter and willing to sign my nomination papers. I hope to be able to represent all of Puna in the senate instead of just Puna makai. . #Joy4Puna”

I myself haven’t spoken to either Sen. Ruderman or Rep. SanBuenventura as of this post, nor can I confirm if Sen. Ruderman is seeking re-election.

Hawaiian Electric & HEI Charitable Foundation Support Big Island Families During COVID-19 Pandemic

Hawaiian Electric and the Hawaiian Electric Industries Charitable Foundation (HEICF) recently donated $21,000 to three Hawaii Island non-profit organizations that are feeding communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Hawaii Island, the biggest concern and priority is food security. The Boys & Girls Club of the Big Island, The Food Basket, and Activate Hawaii Aid each received $5,000 from HEICF to support their ongoing efforts to provide fresh produce, shelf-stable food, and prepared meals to Hawaii Island families. These donations are in addition to the $2,000 each organization received from Hawaiian Electric last month.

“Communities count on us to provide reliable electric service to operate essential businesses and support new stay-at-home lifestyles,” said Sharon Suzuki, Hawaiian Electric’s president of Maui County and Hawaii Island Utilities. “It’s also important for us to do what we can to help those who are struggling with basic needs. I’m grateful these three organizations are working together to meet Hawaii Island’s food security needs during this very tough time.”

Through its daily Community Meal Support Initiative, the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Island (BGCBI) is providing nutritional hot meals to the island’s most vulnerable populations including keiki, kupuna, homeless, and struggling families. Their efforts help fill shortfalls and resource gaps, especially in very rural communities that are unable to benefit from school-based cafeteria meals due to lack of transportation. Last month, it provided more than 18,000 meals and it now provides up to 800 meals daily. Through this donation, BGCBI can provide 1,272 meals for the community.

“The continued support of Hawaiian Electric and the HEI Charitable Foundation has allowed the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Island to be able to quickly respond to the needs of those on Hawaii Island who are struggling as a result of the pandemic,” said Chad Cabral, Chief Executive Officer. “Thank you for a true partnership that helps to support and strengthen our Hawaii Island communities.”

The Food Basket is providing Ohana Drop boxes which include a multi-day supply of shelf-stable food and local fresh produce for individuals and families. It offers drive-thru food distribution at 16 sites around the island and home delivery for those with limited transportation or compromised health. Through this donation, The Food Basket was able to purchase 5,000 pounds of food for the community.

“We are so extremely grateful to HEI and Hawaiian Electric for their long-time partnership and generous support to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable residents on Hawaii Island,” said Kristin Frost Albrecht, executive director of The Food Basket. “Given the skyrocketing number of families and individuals in need in our hard-hit communities across the island, this donation will provide critical food support during this unprecedented and challenging time.”

Activate Hawaii Aid (AHA) is a collective of community and government, working together to activate an islandwide network of resilience. The $2,000 donation supported the Keiki Care Packs initiative by providing 2,712 packs to children in more than 30 Hawaii Island communities. Each pack includes food stuffs, curated activities, resources and materials to help keiki and parents better understand and cope with the pandemic. The additional $5,000 will support the #FeedThePeopleHI – Puna project, a collaboration between Chef Hui and AHA to increase food security for Puna households. Beginning May 15, and every Friday for the next eight weeks, 500 meal kits with ingredients and recipe cards for one-to-two big batch meals will be distributed to communities in upper and lower Puna subdivisions.

“Many hands and many huis have come together to do something special for our keiki and community,” said Ashley Kierkiewicz, lead organizer for Activate Hawaii Aid. “So much thought, aloha, and planning goes into each project, and because it is a massive, ongoing give, working with community leaders is key. We rely on generous donations such as those from Hawaiian Electric, so we can activate our volunteer network and amplify our give.”

COVID-19 Crisis Provides Coral Relief at Big Island Bay

Kahalu‘u Bay on the Big Island is one of the most popular and heavily visited snorkeling locations in all of Hawai‘i. Hundreds of thousands of people come to view colorful fish and dazzling coral colonies every year, and like in many other over-used locations, the aquatic life in the bay is struggling to survive.

Cauliflower Coral (Pocillopora meandrina)

The COVID-19 crisis has provided the opportunity for the bay and its inhabitants to rest. Hawai‘i County’s Kahalu‘u Beach Park has been closed, and now the Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center (KBEC), a program of The Kohala Center, along with the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), are asking everyone to voluntarily refrain from swimming and snorkeling in the bay, particularly during the week of May 10-16 to enhance upcoming spawning of Cauliflower Coral (Pocillopora meandrina).

According to DAR and Eyes of the Reef Network, cauliflower coral was once abundant on shallow coral reefs along West Hawaiʻi, including Kahaluʻu Bay. However, environment stressors and very high ocean temperatures impacted West Hawaiʻi in 2015 and again at the end of 2019, causing catastrophic bleaching and mortality for more than 90% of the Kahaluʻu Bay population.

Coral Bleaching – Kahalu'u Bay 8-17-19 from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.

KBEC director Cindi Punihaole Kennedy says next week is prime spawning time for the corals, as they only get one chance a year to spawn. “We’re asking everyone to voluntarily avoid snorkeling or swimming in the bay from May 10-16. During broadcast spawning events, corals emit reproductive materials (“gametes”) into the water column and these materials are carried by the tides to mix and generate planktonic coral larvae. Given the chance to settle undisturbed by human activity and/or pollutants, coral gametes will be able to find proper rubble colony areas to settle within the bay.” 

KBEC has been one of the state’s leaders in encouraging the use of reef-friendly sunscreens by conducting frequent sunscreen swaps and encouraging folks to cover up. In addition, ReefTeachers educate visitors to avoid stepping on rocks as they are home to many living animals and to please extend social distancing practices to help protect the bay’s natural resources.

DAR administrator Brian Neilson commented, “We totally support this voluntary measure as natural reproduction events are critically important.” Researchers can accurately predict when cauliflower and other coral species will spawn. Studies have shown that with the absence of daily visitors and a subsequent reduction in physical damage and impact of chemical sunscreens, growth and recovery along the shoreline has already been documented. Research has shown that it can take less than 24 hours for corals to successfully reproduce and settle properly.”

Punihaole Kennedy concluded, “Minimizing pollutants and physical disturbances in our precious bay starting on Sunday is fitting for Mother’s Day. It will help ensure that corals are able to spawn in their natural environment without interference.”

Will Tourism Bounce Back on the Big Island in 2020? Waikoloa Vacation Rentals Provides Insights

WAIKOLOA, Hawaii, May 4, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — There are many speculations out there regarding how COVID-19 will ultimately affect tourism in Hawaii, but there are few with regards to the Big Island specifically. Waikoloa Vacation Rentals has looked at what has happened thus far and how this will affect the Big Island of Hawaii in the coming months. Rob Dalton, owner of Waikoloa Vacation Rentals, states, “In order for tourism to bounce back in Hawaii in 2020, the plan to reopen tourism has to be well thought out and done in a timely manner.”

PC: Waikoloa Vacation Rentals

First, when Hawaii began to attempt to shut down vacationers coming into the state, they were successful. Most hotels shut down and almost all vacation rental business or hotels that are open will more than likely have an occupancy of less than 10% for the months of April and May. Most vacation industry executives agreed with this move. While this was Hawaii’s move, many other countries have limited their citizens from leaving the country through the rest of the summer, ultimately causing out-of-country travelers to cancel through August.

The shutting down of tourism in April and May caused the airlines to adjust. This is currently the most influential factor affecting tourism once travel opens back up. Currently, Delta is the only larger airline that flies into Kona International Airport. Due to this, properties such as Kolea at Waikoloa Beach Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii have seen cancellations in the summer due to the lack of direct flights into Kona International Airport. Due to this, they are choosing to go to Oahu or Maui since there are still direct flights there.  

Due to these factors, there are a lot of things that have to happen in order for tourism to bounce back on the Big Island of Hawaii in 2020. First, the State has to remove the quarantine. Second, the airlines have to open back up to offer more flights and more direct flights. All of this will have to happen rapidly in order for the Big Island of Hawaii to have a chance at having a decent summer in relation to tourism.

*SOURCE Waikoloa Vacation Rentals

Science Camps of America Cancels Due to COVID-19

Michael Richards, Executive Director of Science Camps of America, sent this letter out to their camp community:

To our wonderful Science Camp community,

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to cancel Science Camp for the summer of 2020. The cancellation applies to both the Land & Sea and Air & Space camps. Campers who had already registered for camp have been issued full refunds.

With only sixty days to go before the first session is scheduled to start, it is clear that this is the best decision to make for the health and safety of our campers and staff. 

With our current facilities, travel needs, and our scientific expedition, proper social distancing simply cannot be maintained. Compounding this challenge is that the State of Hawaii currently requires a 14-day quarantine for international, mainland, and inter-island travelers. That alone would make camp quite impossible if still in place in July.

We have already begun planning for next summer with a scheduled start date of July 1, 2021 for what we hope will be our best summer Science Camp yet. 

Thank you for your support and ongoing engagement as we continue to inspire the next generation of explorers and scientists. In the meantime, stay curious!

Hawaii Receiving $58M in Federal Funding to Support & Cover Cost Of COVID-19 Care, Testing, Treatment

Sen. Brian Schatz announced that Hawai‘i will receive $58 million in new federal funding to support 56 rural hospitals and community health centers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The funds will cover lost revenue due to delayed or canceled non-emergent services or procedures, as well as additional health care expenses attributable to the coronavirus, including testing, treating patients, and instituting preventive measures.

“Rural hospitals and health care providers across Hawai‘i provide essential primary care and other health care services to thousands of Hawai‘i families,” said Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This new federal funding will help our state’s rural health care providers so that they can weather this pandemic and continue to provide high quality care.”

The new funding is part of the $100 billion grant program for health care providers in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Recipients of this allocation for rural providers include rural acute care general hospitals, Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), and Community Health Centers (CHCs) located in rural areas.  RHCs and CHCs will receive a minimum of $100,000, and rural acute care hospitals and CAHs will receive a minimum of $1 million, with additional payment based on annual operating expenses.

In addition to the funding announced today, over 1,700 health care providers in Hawai‘i have already received more than $165 million through this program. The recently enacted Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act included an additional $75 billion in grants for health care providers as well as $25 billion specifically for testing.

More information on federal support for Hawai‘i health care providers can be found on Senator Schatz’s online resource guide: schatz.senate.gov/coronavirus.

Big Island Receives COVID-19 Rapid Test Equipments

The DOH State Laboratories Division (SLD) has distributed a total of 12 Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 rapid test instruments to all counties. The rapid coronavirus tests can produce results within 15 minutes when conducted in a certified laboratory.

“Having this capability to test a critically ill patient within 15 minutes is a great tool in the fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Edward Desmond, State Laboratories Division Administrator. “It helps us detect the virus quickly and respond much faster to help the patient and inform staff to ensure safety measures are in place.”

Six instruments have been sent to county medical systems (two each to DOH District Health Office laboratories on Kaua‘i, Maui and Hawai‘i) and six instruments to clinical laboratories and health systems on O‘ahu (two each to Diagnostic Laboratory Services, Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii, and Kaiser Permanente).

In Maui County, the Abbott test was conducted on a hospitalized patient, who tested negative and was subsequently transferred into hospice care. The equipment helped to confirm that the patient could be transferred safely to another healthcare facility.

The Abbott instruments were provided at no cost to the state with federal funding from the International Reagent Resource (IRR). Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifies that use of the rapid testing equipment be conducted on symptomatic patients. Requesting physicians will utilize the test kits based on priority symptoms and factors. 

HPD Charge Suspect in Kona Murder Investigation

Hawaiʻi Island Police have charged the suspect in the Kona murder investigation that left a 45-year-old Captain Cook man dead.

The victim’s name is being withheld pending identification and notification of next-of-kin. 

James Bonham

After conferring with County Prosecutors, at 5:00 p.m. (April 30), detectives charged 66-year-old James Bonham, with second-degree murder.

The charge stems from an incident on Tuesday evening (April 28), shortly after 9:00 p.m., when Kona patrol officers responded to a reported shooting that had just occurred in the 83-5000 block of Middle Keei Road, Captain Cook.  

Upon arrival, officers located the victim with an injury consistent with a gunshot. The victim was later pronounced dead at the Kona Community Hospital. James Bonham was arrested at the scene where a firearm was also recovered. 

Bonham is being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance scheduled for Friday (May 1) in Kona District Court.

An autopsy has been scheduled for Friday (May 1) to determine the cause of death.

Anyone who may have information about this incident is asked to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311 or Detective Aron Tomota at (808) 326-4646 ext. 262 or aron.tomota@hawaiicounty.gov.          

Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood Project’s 3rd Phase Completed

The Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation (HICDC), a Hilo-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, announced the completion and planned rent up for the third phase of the Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood project in Hilo. The third phase has 92 affordable units for low-income seniors 62 years and older who qualify for Section 8 rental assistance. 

The County of Hawaii Office of Housing and Community Development received more than 450 tenant applications for the 92 units. A lottery was conducted to establish the processing priority of the applicants. Tenants will begin moving in on May 8, 2020. Prior to occupancy, the units will be sanitized to minimize the risk of COVID-19 contamination. Occupancy will occur gradually to maintain social distancing. It is expected that 6 units per day will be occupied, one on each floor of the complex. It is expected to take 4 to 5 weeks to completely fill the apartment complex with qualified seniors. 

“With the completion of this third phase of the Mohouli Heights Senior project, we will have completed 182 low income senior rentals on the site with the 9,000 square foot Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Adult Day Center (a collaboration with Hawaii Island Adult Care, Inc.) embedded on the campus providing housing and services to seniors,” said HICDC Executive Director Keith Kato. 

The Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood project is being developed through a collaboration between the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation, Wells Fargo Bank, Sugar Creek Capital and Bank of Hawaii. The project has been awarded Low Income Housing Tax Credits and a low interest loan from the State Housing Finance and Development Corporation. The 5.4-acre project site is leased from the County of Hawaii for a nominal $10 per year.  Total development cost for the project is projected to be $36 million and the project has been completed four months ahead of schedule.

“Our mission at the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation started over 25 years ago with a dedicated group of volunteers who wanted to help provide needed housing on Hawaii Island for elderly and low income families. We will have completed over 700 affordable housing units in Hilo, Puna, Hamakua, Waimea, Kohala and Kona and provided housing security for those in need.”

Senator Inouye Announces Funding for Natural Energy Lab’s Seawater System

Senator Lorraine R. Inouye announced that $850,000 in General Obligation reimbursable bonds were recently released by Governor David Ige for improvements and upgrades to the seawater system of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA).

Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA)

“The addition of new funding will help NELHA in its mission to develop and diversify Hawaii’s economy,” Senator Inouye said, “which is even more important at this time of economic upheaval caused by the closure and scaling back of many industries due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

NELHA is one of the largest single green economic development projects in the world. Its main facility is located on 870 acres just outside of Kailua-Kona on Hawai‘i Island.

Kona Historical Society Presents Virtual Story Time

With the governor’s stay-at-home order now extended through May, many ohana are searching for additional resources to keep their keiki entertained and engaged. To provide parents and caregivers a few minutes of precious relief, Kona Historical Society launching a new weekly virtual story time on its Facebook page.

The nonprofit is inviting ohana to gather around their computers, phones and tablets together to enjoy short stories about Kona’s unique history and heritage. Some of the books shared will transport viewers back to the past or take them down memory lane. Other selected books aim to spark curiosity, smiles, joy, and laughter. Many celebrate community, diversity and friendship.

Every Wednesday at 1 p.m., Kona Historical Society’s Programs Team will conduct a virtual story time, lasting between 5 and 20 minutes. The videos will initially be posted to Kona Historical Society’s Facebook page as a Watch Party and then uploaded to the Kona Historical Society YouTube channel. During the Watch Party, the public is welcome to provide comments and ask questions.

The first Kona Historical Society virtual story time is this Wednesday, April 29, when “Spunky: A Kona Nightingale” by Ethel Harder and Janne Fujimoto, with illustrations by Shay Wahl, will be read aloud at the Society’s Kona Coffee Living History Farm in Captain Cook to resident donkeys Shizu and Charlie Boy. This delightful children’s book shares the story of coffee farming through the eyes of a donkey. 

The complete schedule of this series of free story time events can be found on Kona Historical Society’s Facebook page. The nonprofit looks forward to seeing fellow bibliophiles of all ages and Kona aficionados online.

Kona Historical Society is a community-based, nonprofit organization and Smithsonian Museum affiliate that has spent the past four decades collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the Kona districts and their rich cultural heritage within Hawaii. For more information, visit www.konahistorical.org

Mayor Kim Clarifies Emergency Rules

Pursuant to the authority vested in me by Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes Chapter 127A and due to the public health concerns related to COVID-19, I hereby find that immediate promulgation of this rule is necessary and do so in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the people of this County.

On April 16, 2020, Governor David Ige issued the Fifth Supplementary Proclamation, mandating enhanced social distancing requirements by stating that all customers and employees of essential businesses and operations shall exercise additional social distancing and protective measures to the fullest extent possible regarding the mandatory use of cloth face coverings, six-foot distances, limited customer occupancy, hand sanitizer and sanitizing products, disinfection, high risk populations, online and remote access, pickup at store or delivery, and signage.

This rule incorporates and implements the Governor’s Third and Fifth Supplementary Proclamations and provides clarification and additional guidelines to be implemented in this County.

  1. Food production and consumption

    Particular care should be exercised by essential businesses or operations that handle food production or consumption.  In addition to the requirements set forth in Section II of this rule, all customers and employees shall exercise the following additional requirements to the fullest extent possible:
    1. Employees shall use gloves while handling food. Should employees handle any payment transaction (cash or credit card) or the property of the customer, they must sanitize gloves or change gloves before servicing the next customer.
    2. Every employee shall do a self-check prior to start of shift to monitor for any COVID-19 symptoms. If at any point during their work shift the employee notices such symptoms they shall immediately notify their supervisor and leave the premises. Employee shall seek medical attention if symptoms progress, and shall not return to work until symptom-free at a minimum of seventy-two (72) hours; except that if employee tests positive for COVID-19, employee may discontinue home isolation under the following three conditions:
      1. At least seventy-two (72) hours have passed since recovery defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever reducing medications;
      2. Improvements in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and
      3. At least seven (7) days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
  2. Patrons or riders of any of the County Mass Transit Agency vehicles

    Prior to boarding or entering a vehicle (e.g., Hele On Bus), riders who are five (5) years old and over, shall wear face coverings or masks to prevent the spread of droplets and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Exempted from wearing face coverings or masks are patrons or riders who have health or medical conditions, trouble breathing, or are otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.  Unless there is an exemption, the patron or rider who refuses to wear a face covering or mask shall not be allowed to board or enter the vehicle.
  3. Immediate promulgation of this rule is necessary to address the continuing emergency declared in the Emergency Proclamation issued on February 28, 2020, the Supplementary Emergency Proclamations issued on March 11, 2020, and March 24, 2020, and Governor David Ige’s Proclamation dated March 4, 2020, and Supplementary Proclamations issued on March 16, 2020, March 21, 2020, March 23, 2020, March 31, 2020 and April 16, 2020.
  4. Pursuant to Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes Section 127A-29, any person violating this Rule shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.
  5. This Rule shall be effective immediately, upon its promulgation, and shall continue throughout the present emergency caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic or until sooner terminated by my Order.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the County of Hawaiʻi to be affixed.  Done this 21st day of April 2020 in Hilo, Hawaiʻi.


Harry Kim
Mayor
County of Hawaiʻi

Mayor Kim Issues Emergency Rule Mandating Face Masks at Businesses

Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim issued a Rule today that mandates face masks or coverings for all customers of essential businesses aged 5 or older and all employees who have contact with others, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Mayor’s COVID-19 Emergency Rule No. 3 stipulates that a business shall disallow entry to anyone who refuses to wear a face mask or face coverings.  Exemptions from wearing face masks are persons with health or medical conditions that prohibit the use of face masks or face coverings.

Rule 3 also calls for all customers to sanitize their hands at entry, and hand sanitizing stations must be set up in the customers’ path at the entrance.

The County’s COVID-19 Prevention and Education Task Force will be working with businesses to ensure compliance from their employees and customers, said Mayor Harry Kim.

“These are stricter than the Governor’s rules, because we want to make sure that our community stays healthy and safe,” the Mayor said.  Rule 3 was prompted in part after the recent outbreak of the virus among fast food workers and their families in Kona.

“We want these rules to be in place, while focusing on being reasonable so that people can make a living,” Mayor Kim said.

The Rule strongly recommends that one customer per 250 square feet be allowed into an establishment to ensure the six-foot distancing requirement, and to increase social distancing.  

Rule 3 calls for businesses to discourage hoarding of essential supplies, and mandates that businesses post signage and communicate special hours for high-risk populations.

Businesses that handle food production and consumption are to have employees use gloves while handling food, and employees who handle any payment transaction by cash or credit card must sanitize or change gloves before serving the next customer.

All businesses are required to assign, train and schedule employees to sanitize carts, conveyors, counters, handles, knobs and other common touch areas, the Rule says.

Employees must do a self-check prior to starting their shift to monitor for any COVID-19 symptoms. If an employee feels ill, they must immediately notify their supervisor and leave the premises. Rule 3 stipulates that the employee must seek medical attention if symptoms persist, and shall not return to work until symptom-free at a minimum of 72 hours.  If an employee tests positive for the virus, they shall not return to work until staying home and being symptom-free for 14 days.

On the County’s Mass Transit buses, riders five years old and older must wear face coverings or masks to prevent the spread of the virus, with exemptions for people with health or medical conditions that prohibit their use.  Riders who refuse to wear a mask will not be allowed to board or enter the bus.

Violators of Rule 3 may be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 or one year imprisonment, or both.  The Rule remain effective throughout the pandemic emergency, or until terminated sooner by order of the Mayor.

For further information, contact Civil Defense at (808) 935-0031.

Update on Kona McDonald’s COVID-19 Cases

There is one new positive case associated with the cluster among the McDonald’s restaurants in Kailua-Kona. Another employee at the Walmart location has tested positive. DOH is continuing to monitor employees and family members, all of whom are in isolation or quarantine. 

Both restaurants (at Kona Commons and at Walmart in Kailua-Kona) are temporarily closed. There is low-risk to the public, as only workers or their family members were identified as close contacts.

Cluster Investigation Continues at Maui Memorial Medical Center

41 individuals are under investigation as potentially associated with a cluster of COVID-19 cases at Maui Memorial Medical Center (MMMC). This number includes 26 staff members, 14 patients and one undetermined. The main cluster involves at least 15 staff and eight (8) patients. 195 healthcare personnel and 93 patients have been tested as part of this investigation. While test results for possible new exposures are pending, DOH confirms that the implementation of extensive infection control measures throughout MMMC, reduces concerns for new transmissions events at the facility.

COVID-19 Investigations in Wahiawa

Two healthcare workers at Wahiawa General Hospital Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on O‘ahu have tested positive for COVID-19. The cases appear to be unrelated to each other, as well as a past case that occurred in late March. Given the two recent cases occurred within a week of each other, DOH cannot exclude possible association at this time. 12 people associated with the pair of cases have tested negative for the virus. Infection control measures and monitoring by the facility’s infection control preventionist is continuing. At the Wahiawa Center for Community Health, two healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19. DOH has reports of a third worker at the center who had been hospitalized, but it appears that the person was likely exposed while traveling out-of-state, has not had exposure with the other two people, and has not been at work since returning to Hawai‘i.

Mayor Kim Issues Rule that Allows Ocean Access from Certain Parks

Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim issued a Rule on Friday which allows ocean access from certain County parks for outdoor exercise, fishing for food, and the use of restroom and shower facilities. 

Reed’s Bay

The Mayor’s COVID-19 Emergency Rule No. 2 stipulates that the following beach parks will be made available daily from 7 a.m. through 5 p.m., for the purposes of direct access to and from the ocean and shoreline in order to engage in outdoor exercise, fishing for and gathering food, and use of restroom and shower facilities:

• Kahalu‘u Beach Park
• Magic Sands Beach Park
• Wai‘aha Bay Beach Park (Honl’s)
• Kawaihae Canoe Area
• Honoli‘i Beach Park
• Kaipalaoa Landing Beach Park
• Bayfront Beach Park
• Reed’s Bay Beach Park
• Lili‘uokalani Gardens 

The following park restroom facilities will be opened daily from 7 a.m. through 5 p.m.:

• Mo‘oheau Bus Terminal – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Lincoln Park – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Bayfront Soccer Fields – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Bayfront Beach Park – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Liliuokalani Gardens – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Reeds Bay Beach Park – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Veterans Cemetery No. 2 – 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Honoli‘i Beach Park – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• ‘Alae Cemetery – 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• Shipman Park – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Kurtistown Park – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Kahalu‘u Beach Park – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Magic Sands Beach Park (La‘aloa) – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Wai’aha Bay Beach Park (Honl’s) – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Kailua Park (Old A/Maka‘eo) beach only – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Waikoloa Pu‘u Nui Park – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Waimea Park tennis courts only – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area – 24 hours

Park facilities that are not listed in the Rule remain closed, and reservations for these parks and recreational facilities are canceled through April 30, 2020.

The Rule notes that County cemeteries, including veterans’ cemeteries administered by the County, remain open for visitation during standard hours. Pana‘ewa Equestrian Center remains open only for persons with valid horse stall rental agreements, who are actively boarding a horse at the facility.

Rule No. 2 is to be read in conjunction with the Third Supplementary Proclamation issued on March 23, 2020, which directs people to stay at home, with exemptions for essential businesses and operations, and persons engaged in permitted activities. Social distancing requiring maintaining six feet of physical separation from other persons is stipulated in the Proclamation, along with limiting any gathering of more than 10 people.

For further information, contact Civil Defense at (808) 935-0031.

Battalion Chief William Bergin Chosen Fire Fighter of the Year

William Bergin, a Battalion Chief, was recently recognized by the Aloha Exchange Club of East Hawai‘i as the County of Hawai‘i Fire Fighter of the year for 2019.  Battalion Chief Bergin was presented with an individualized award plaque and special gift basket from various Big Island businesses by Club President Curtis Chong and Event Chair Joey Estrella at the Hawai‘i County Fire Department Administrative Office due to the current temporary suspension of public gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

BC Bergin, besides his important work as Battalion Chief for West Hawai‘i, was recognized by the Fire Department for his tireless efforts in securing important funding towards necessary equipment and off-road vehicles to battle West Hawai‘i wildfires.  Besides Hawai‘i County Funding, Bergin was able to secure private resources saving the County nearly a million dollars for the specialized equipment.

BC Bergin is a proud member of the County of Hawai‘i Fire Department, and cares deeply for the men and women under his command, always mindful of keeping them safe from harm.  His goal is to leave things better than he found them, and is grateful for everyone who has been part of creating a safe working environment for our fire personnel.

F𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥 A𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞 Available 𝐭𝐨 𝐇𝐚𝐰𝐚𝐢ʻ𝐢 𝐈𝐬𝐥𝐚𝐧𝐝 R𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 I𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐈𝐃-𝟏𝟗

Thanks to a $100,000 grant from Hawaii Community Foundation and a $141,000 grant from Hawaii Island United Way’s Rent & Utility Assistance Program, financial help is available to low-income Hawaiʻi Island residents experiencing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Resilience Fund was established by Hawaiʻi Community Foundation and Pierre and Pam Omidyar to “rapidly deploy resources and encourage community giving to address the COVID-19 Pandemic,” according to the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation website. United Way’s Rent & Utility Assistance Program was established to assist those who are in immediate and urgent need of support with paying their rent and utility bills due to their income being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The funding will allow three Hawaiʻi Island non-profit organizations, Hope Services Hawaii, Neighborhood Place of Puna and Hawaiʻi County Economic Opportunity Council, the opportunity to approve one-time emergency financial assistance of up to $1,000 per household to Hawaiʻi Island residents who have recently been laid off or whose income has been reduced.

Also, eligible applicants for financial emergency assistance must meet income limits, currently earning at or below 80% of Hawaiʻi County’s Area Median Income (AMI). The 80% AMI cap starts at $46,700 for an individual, and increases with each additional family member. Verification of income, proof of economic hardship as a result of the pandemic, and a government-issued Hawaiʻi ID is required. For a full list of required documents and grant guidelines (including AMI limitations) contact the following agencies for additional information:

Hope Services Hawaii  
Phone: (808) 935-3050  
Website:  www.hopeserviceshawaii.org

Neighborhood Place of Puna
Phone: (808) 965-5550
Website: http://neighborhoodplace.org/

Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council
Phone: (808) 935-5219
Website:  http://hceoc.net

Or call United Way at 211 for more information.

Funding is limited and agencies are asking for your consideration in making sure you meet all requirements before applying. 

Hope Services Hawaiʻi will be able to assist households seeking mortgage, rent or utility assistance. HOPE will assist with the payment of one household bill or expense. 

Neighborhood Place of Puna and Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council will assist with rent and utility costs only. Applicants of this program can apply once a month for up to 3 months. 

Payments will be sent directly to creditors on behalf of applicants. 

“More than half of Hawaii Island’s residents live paycheck to paycheck making ends meet even before this pandemic,” says HOPE CEO Brandee Menino. “We are grateful to Hawaiʻi Community Foundation and the Hawaii Island United Way for stepping up to assist our island’s most vulnerable residents.”

COVID-19 Drive-Through Testing in Hilo on Sunday, April 19

Premier Medical Group, with the support of the County of Hawai’i, Bay Clinic and Hope Services, will offer a drive-through screening and testing clinic. The one-day clinic for COVID-19 will be held at Hilo’s Ho`olulu Complex on Sunday, April 19, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.  Please note updated clinic hours are 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Access only through the Pi’ilani/Hinano entrance.

This free clinic is 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 clinic 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 Civil Defense at 935-0031.

Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 on Big Island by Age Group

The amount of cases of COVID-19 by age groups on the Big Island of Hawaii as of April 8, 2020, breaks down like this:

  • Ages 0-19: 16 cases with none requiring hospitalization (0%)
  • Ages 20-39: 137 cases with 5 requiring hospitalization (3.5%)
  • Ages 40-59: 149 cases with 11 requiring hospitalization (6.9%)
  • Ages 60+: 98 cases with 26 requiring hospitalization (21%)

Spread of COVID-19 in the State of Hawaii as of April 8, 2020:

Gov. Ige Appoints Oshima to Lead Economic & Community Recovery

Hawaii Gov. David Y. Ige, joined by Senate President Ron Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki, issued a proclamation today announcing the appointment of veteran business executive and community leader Alan M. Oshima to lead Hawaiʻi’s efforts to develop and implement a plan for economic and community stabilization, recovery and resiliency. 

Alan M. Oshima

“The health and safety of Hawaiʻi’s people will always remain my overriding priority. However, while working to protect our residents we also need to focus on stabilizing our economy. With the staggering increase in unemployment and the number of businesses shutting their doors, we need to take action now so we can provide for the basic needs of our citizens – food, shelter and healthcare – and plan for what the future holds,” said Gov. Ige. “The only way we can address these issues and rise out of this crisis, is to work together – this includes government, the private sector, non-profits and the community-at-large.” 

Oshima was selected to lead the governor’s efforts based on his experience, long-standing reputation, business acumen and dedication to leadership and volunteerism with community organizations. In February, Oshima became the senior executive advisor of Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc. (HECO) after serving five years as its president and chief executive officer. While at HECO, he is credited with accelerating a company-wide transformation initiative that reorganized its focus and built an employee culture that readily adapts to change.

Oshima will lead a collaborative effort to develop and implement the Hawaiʻi Economic and Community Recovery & Resiliency Plan that will include a concurrent three-part strategy to address both the economic and community impacts of COVID-19: 

• Part I: Stabilization. Identify and address critical economic and community impacts, including the allocation of the federal CARES act funds and state and local funding to mitigate the collapse of key economic sectors. Also, provide direct economic relief to individuals to avoid homelessness, hunger and sickness. 

Part II: Recovery. Identify and support economic and community development activities which provide recovery, job growth and capital investment in the economy. 

Part III: Resiliency. Re-evaluate and restructure Hawaiʻi’s economy to meet the new normal and desired future for Hawaiʻi. Identify and invest in systemic changes in the economy and society which furthers economic diversification, environmental preservation, sustainability and Hawaiʻi’s values and way of life. 

“This is a monumental role that the governor has established, and it will be critical in helping Hawaiʻi through this crisis and shaping the direction of our state for generations to come,” said Oshima. “We need to move quickly to establish a collaborative approach that brings together all stakeholders and maximizes Hawaiʻi’s efficiency and response. These are critical times and we can’t afford to be duplicating efforts.”

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi said, “While we are sheltering in place to reduce community spread of COVID-19, the task force’s primary concern is to ensure that all federal monies are used to the fullest extent possible to stabilize our current economic free-fall.” Senate President Kouchi added, “It is hoped that this task force will be able to advance and expand upon the partnerships that were aborted when the pandemic struck.”

“This pandemic has reaffirmed what we have known for a while — that our economy must be diversified and cannot be over-reliant on one or two major industries,” said House Speaker Scott K. Saiki. “This task force must help modernize our economy. The future of our families and state relies upon a sound and resilient economy.” 

As part of the plans design, it will utilize the economic and community sectors identified in the Hawaiʻi 2050 Sustainability Plan: 

• Economy (Including Healthcare, Infrastructure, Financial Services, Hospitality, Construction, Innovation & Technology, Government and Military)

• Environment and Natural Resources

• Community and Social Well-being (Including NGOs, social services, culture and the arts, and faith-based)

To address community needs and expedite the decision-making process, input from key stakeholders and sectors will be essential. Each sector will have a state government appointed liaison to provide support, outreach and connect ideas and needs with available government and community resources. They will also be asked to identify and leverage tools, resources, and assets available to achieve desired outcomes, including the roles and responsibilities of government, business, nonprofits, labor organizations and individuals. 

“There are so many individuals, groups and organizations in our community that want to help and many have already started looking for solutions. We want to make sure that they all are engaged and that our efforts are streamlined to collectively identify issues, needs and solutions; facilitate cross-sector planning with government, business, non-profit and labor organizations; and collect reliable data and information for analysis that will be used as the basis for decision making,” added Oshima.

One of the first areas for collaboration is the federal CARES Act and other relief programs. It is anticipated the Hawaiʻi will receive $4.0 billion which need to be used by the end of the year. If the funds are leveraged with state and local government (e.g., infrastructure spending, bond financing, tax incentives), private (e.g., targeted industries and investments), philanthropic (e.g., direct contributions) and consumer initiatives, it will allow for greater utilization and provide for maximum impact to the stabilization and recovery efforts.

Gov. Ige concluded, “There is no time for personal agendas and self-interest – Hawaiʻi is one community, one family. We need to work together. This is the only way we are going to survive.”