Only 1 Citation at Kaneohe Sandbar on First Day of Memorial Day Weekend

At the peak, an estimated 35 boats were anchored at the Kaneohe sandbar (Ahu O Laka) on Saturday, the first day of the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend. A team of six officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), patrolled the area, educating people and watching for violations. 


Ahu O Laka is under its usual no-alcohol ban this weekend and during all summertime three- day holiday weekends. Yesterday, passengers on one boat departing the sandbar, were warned about the rule, but that was the only time officers spotted any illegal consumption.

In the morning they warned a 19-year old jet ski operator, who had taken his craft onto the sandbar. Thrillcraft, like jet skis, are always restricted there. In the afternoon officers encountered another jet ski, being steered by a young boy sitting in front of his father. Officers escorted the man, his wife and two young children back to the He’eia Kea Small Boat Harbor. On the return trip his young daughter was steering from her father’s lap. The Waianae man was cited for two violations: operating a thrillcraft in an off-limits area and underage operation of a thrillcraft. This was the only citation given on Saturday.

Unlike previous years, when alcohol-fueled sandbar parties, resulted in fights and unruly behaviors, so far this Memorial Day weekend, Ahu O Laka has had a definite family feel…lots of keiki, inflatable devices, and water football tossing. DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla said, “We hope on Sunday and Monday, people continue to have fun, practice social distancing unless they’re part of the same family or residential unit, and refrain from drinking at the sandbar.”

DOCARE officers focus on education first and then enforcement. On Saturday, they also warned and escorted a group of five spear fishermen back to their boat. They had failed to put out a dive flag, which is required, if you are not in close proximity to your vessel.

New Video Aimed at Deterring Trespassing at Sacred Falls

Sacred Falls State Park has been closed 21-years, after a Mother’s Day 1999 rockslide killed eight people and seriously hurt dozens of others. In spite of hundreds of trespassers getting citations for entering a closed area since then, continued rockfalls and landslides in the park, and numerous encouragements for people to stay out, they continue to come.

In 2015, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) released a video, that can be viewed on smartphones right at the closed gates into the park. Using a QRC symbol imprinted on several signs, more than 18,700 people have viewed the original video, though there’s no way of knowing how many of them were prompted to turn back.

Today, a new video, produced on the 21st anniversary of the tragedy (May 9, 2020), and again involving a DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) enforcement team, was released and it is directed to a specific demographic. Over the year’s officers have found the majority of violators are men between 20 and 30-years-old. The video begins with images of three young men just entering the park to be immediately turned back by a DOCARE officer. He asks if they saw all the closed signs. They replied, they had. 

DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla commented, “We want this message to resonate clearly not only with this particular age group, but with anyone considering trespassing into the park.” After the encounter between the three men and the DOCARE officer, the narrator remarks, “After you trespassed into this park, imagine your mom and dad getting the call every parent dreads? We’re sorry to tell you, but your son was killed in a rockslide today.”

The video incorporates a “Scared Straight” style of storytelling. DLNR Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell said, “If we can get people to understand that entering the park is illegal, dangerous, and disrespectful to our host culture, maybe some of them will have second thoughts and turn around.” It features an interview with a DOCARE officer who recounts the personal toll the 1999 tragedy took on him and on dozens of first responders and rescuers.

It also highlights the cultural insensitivity of entering Kaliuwa‘a, the Native Hawaiian name for Sacred Falls. Redulla added, “We want to appeal to would-be trespassers not only on the level of risk and illegality, but hopefully to get them to appreciate that the area is kapu, in part, because visitors have not been schooled in customary and traditional practices and how to behave.”

The video concludes, “Do yourself a favor, turn around, avoid a citation, avoid jail, avoid fines. Most importantly respect this place, respect your own life, and respect those who will be called in to rescue you if you get into trouble. You are not invincible, and nature does not take into consideration your selfish desires. Please turn around and live.” It ends with a link to the State Na Ala Hele trails website, which includes hundreds of open and legal trails around the islands.

New Royal Hawaiian Groin Taking Shape

The reconstruction of the existing, 93-year-old Royal Hawaiian Groin in Waikīkī and the construction of a new $1.5 million replacement begins next week.

Last week construction crews mobilized the equipment and this week they built a temporary access road along the beach from Kuhio Beach to the groin. Large rocks that are to be used as the outer layer armor stone have been delivered to the staging area near the groin.

This morning partial demolition of the top of the existing groin began, in order to prepare for the installation of the boulders for the new rock groin. Going forward the boulders will be used to assemble a base around the old groin which will allow the construction crew to assemble the remainder of the structure. This adaptive, re-use construction method means the new groin is being built around the remnants of the old one.

Sam Lemmo, the Administrator of the DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL) explained, “After the groin access-platform is finished, the actual building-up of the groin will start at the ocean-end and as rocks are placed and secured, the equipment will methodically work back to the beach. We are asking everyone to avoid the construction staging areas at Kuhio Beach and in the vicinity of Royal Hawaiian Groin, for their safety and to give workers the chance of completing the project sooner than originally scheduled.” 

The project is a public-private partnership between DLNR/OCCL and the Waikīkī Beach Special Improvement District Association (WBSIDA). No enlargement of the beach is planned, as it is designed to maintain the approximate width outlined in the 2012 Waikīkī Beach maintenance shoreline nourishment project. The construction work is being facilitated and is safer due to the lack of people on the beach because of the COVID-19 emergency.

Senator Kahele Participating in Legislative Session While on FT National Guard Duty

When the Hawaiʻi State Legislature reconvened yesterday, Sen. Kaiali‘i “Kai” Kahele (D-Hilo) joined his colleagues in the Senate while on full time National Guard duty as a member of the Hawai‘i National Guard’s COVID-19 Joint Task Force response.

Sen. Kahele is a Lieutenant Colonel with the Hawai‘i Air National Guard. His active duty start date was April 14th and was originally scheduled to end on May 14th but has been extended to May 31st.

Department of Defense (DOD) Directive 1344.10 allows a reserve component member on active duty for less than 270 days to exercise the functions of elected office provided there is no interference with the performance of military duties.

Sen. Kahele is on Title 32 U.S.C. § 502(f) status in support of the March 1, 2020 Presidential Declaration of National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak and is assigned to the Hawaiʻi National Guard COVID-19 Joint Task Force under the command of Brigadier General Moses Kaoiwi Jr.

All 50 States, Territories and the District of Columbia are providing more than 46,500 guardsmen currently serving in high-risk jobs, distributing food and medical supplies, supporting testing and undertaking other tasks amid the pandemic. Most guardsmen are serving under federal Title 32 U.S.C. § 502(f) orders, which provides federal funds for pay and allowances but keeps guardsmen under the command of their respective State Governors.

Sen. Kahele is the Majority Floor Leader and Chair of the Water and Land Committee. He is one of the first guardsman in the country to serve as an elected official in an official capacity while on full-time National Guard duty dedicated to the country’s COVID-19 national emergency response efforts.

Hawaii Signs With Drone Company to Provide Public Agencies Access

DroneUp, LLC, and the State of Hawaii have signed a Participating Addendum for the NASPO ValuePoint contract for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle services established as the State Procurement Office (SPO) Price List Contract No. 20-08. This begins the offering for the purchase of complete drone solutions to all state agencies, commissions, political subdivisions, institutions, and local public bodies allowed by law. The award is the first of its kind for the drone industry and a highly anticipated announcement.

DroneUp | The Complete Drone Solutions Provider 

DroneUp, an end-to-end drone pilot service provider for aerial data collection, was awarded the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Services Master Agreement #E194-79435 by the Commonwealth of Virginia in August 2019. The services under the award are available for use by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of the United States through the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) ValuePoint Cooperative Purchasing Organization. The State of Hawaii is now able to use the award for the benefit of state departments, institutions, agencies, political subdivisions, and other eligible entities. 

For further information:

DroneUp’s award includes but is not limited to service categories for Emergency Support Services, Law Enforcement Support, Aerial Inspection or Mapping Data Services, Agricultural and Gaming, and Agency Media Relations and Marketing. It’s anticipated that the primary users will be Agriculture & Game Management, Emergency Management, Transportation, Forestry, Mines, Minerals and Energy, and Public Universities and Community Colleges. 

Tom Walker, DroneUp’s CEO, stated, “Hawaii allows businesses to thrive through education and innovation. DroneUp looks forward to supporting our hardworking state and local agencies both in Hawaii and nationwide.”

Capitol Closed to Public for Reconvening of Legislative Session

When the 2020 Legislative session reconvenes on Monday, May 11, the State Capitol will be secured and closed to the general public. Only lawmakers and essential staff will be given access to the building. These restrictions are to limit any possible coronavirus infections and to protect the health and safety of everyone working at the Capitol. These measures are compelled by the Governor’s statewide stay-at-home order which remains in effect through May 31. 

Even though the public is not physically allowed into the building, there are many ways they can participate in the process and contribute to the outcome of proposed legislation.   

The reconvened Legislative Session is expected to last from six to nine working days with all Representatives in attendance during floor sessions in the House.  

The primary goal for the Legislature during this time is to revise the state budget bill to avoid any draconian budget cuts to wages or services, and to plug a $1 billion hole in the budget caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  

The entire House of Representatives will meet at noon Monday through Friday during the session in a reconfigured seating arrangement to conform to physical distancing. Thesemeetings will be televised on ‘Ōlelo Community Television and live streamed at and shown on public television stations on the neighbor islands. The channels may vary so go to for the latest information. 

The public can also watch the House Finance Committee as they work through the budget process with hearings live streamed and televised on ‘Ōlelo. Broadcast information can be found at   

The public can also participate by submitting written testimony on specific bills. All hearing notices are posted on the Legislative website at   

Pay attention to testimony instructions listed on the hearing notice. Committees ask that testimony be submitted 24 hours prior to a hearing. 

Testimony should indicate: 

  • Testifier’s name with position/title and organization; 
  • The Committee(s) to which the comments are directed; 
  • The date and time of the hearing;  
  • Measure number.  

Submit testimony in ONE of the following ways: 

WEB:    For testimony less than 20MB in size, transmit from; or 

FAX:     For testimony less than 5 pages in length, transmit to 586-6201 (Oahu) or 1-800-535-3859 (for Neighbor Islander without a computer to submit testimony through the Web). 

Testimony submitted will be placed on the legislative website and on the bill’s status page.  The public posting of testimony on the website should be considered when including personal information in your testimony. 

In addition, every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. our in-house news and information program called “Live at the Legislature” is shown on ‘Ōlelo channel 49. This weekly show features timely interviews with lawmakers discussing events, bills and issues moving through the House of Representatives. 

Every Wednesday at noon, our newest program called “Talk Story with House Majority” is aired on ‘Ōlelo channel 49. House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti is the host and sheinterviews community and government leaders along with State Representatives discussing pressing community issues.   

Both programs are also available to neighbor island viewers through their public-access stations. 

The Legislature has been in recess since March 17 when one lawmaker tested positive for the coronavirus. 

For more information on the legislative process or how to contact your Representatives, go to  

Airlines for America Briefs COVID-19 Committee

The Airlines for America presented the following report on COVID-19 and some of the ongoing challenges the airlines are having to the Hawaii Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 on Thursday May 7, 2020.

“Air travel continues to be an essential service and we are committed to helping those who need to travel, such as medical professionals, businesspeople and government or military personnel, or residents of Hawai’i returning home, as well as carrying lifesaving supplies and cargo to Hawai‘i.”

  • Our passenger volumes are down 94% overall and 98% to the State of Hawaii.
  • Bookings remain 95% below year-ago levels and net booked revenues (booked minuscanceled) are down 101%.
  • U.S. airlines are currently burning through $10 billion of cash per month, with the aim of reducing that figure sharply between now and the end of the year.

The road to recovery will be a long one.

  • Passenger volumes took 3 years to recover from 9/11 and 7 years from the Global Financial Crisis / Great Recession of 2008-2009.
  • Once demand does recover, it will take years to retire all of the debt incurred.
  • There is no doubt that our industry will emerge from this crisis much smaller than it was going into it.


The CARES Act requires that airlines receiving aid continue to provide minimum levels of service to markets they were serving before passage of the Act, as enforced by USDOT through Sept. 30.

In addition to our legal obligation to maintain service, airlines are continuing to fly:

  • medical professionals
  • patients who need regular care not available in their hometown
  • first responders and essential workers
  • students returning home
  • people visiting relatives
  • people conducting essential business
  • repatriation of Americans from foreign countries
  • federal government civilian and military personnel



Demand has dropped by 98% to Hawaii (compared to a 94% drop nationally).

  • Fares are a function of supply and demand. Demand is currently extremely low.
  • USDOT has not yet published fare data for any portion of 2020.
  • However, internal data provided by one major airline shows that average airfares declined just 5% from the end of April 2019 to the end of April 2020. It is not unreasonable to assume that other airlines are seeing similar data.
  • Airlines don’t ask passengers their reasons for travel and can’t deny boarding to someone simply because they are traveling for leisure. And, we certainly don’t want to punish those who need to travel, or to cut off the movement of critical goods carried in the belly of passenger aircraft.


Hawaii is not the only state with a 14-day quarantine requirement. Airlines and passengers are dealing with a patchwork of executive orders around the country.

Each airline has its own procedures, but as a general matter they are regularly communicating with passengers about travel advisories that affect them including:

  • pre-boarding announcements in the gate hold area
  • on-board announcements
  • regularly updated travel advisories/restrictions on their websites
  • direct messages to travelers in the days prior to their scheduled travel


What you see in the Official Airline Guide (or other airline schedule publications) is not necessarily what materializes.

  • Airlines publish their schedules months in advance in order to make sure there is crew available to fly, and aircraft available to serve. If demand does not materialize, airlines will often consolidate those flights.
  • Part of the reason they reserve spots on the schedule is that they need to program and maintain some level of schedule for when demand does in fact return. They can take flights down as needed if the demand remains low.
  • Flights have sharply fallen off since around March 26 (when the quarantine was put into place) and have remained bare bones ever since.


Hawaii State Legislature Will Reconvene 2020 Session Monday

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi and House Speaker Scott K. Saiki today announced that the Hawaiʻi State Senate and the Hawaiʻi State House of Representatives will reconvene the 2020 legislative session on Monday, May 11.

The session will focus on stabilizing the state budget and budget-related bills in anticipation of a $1 billion shortfall in state revenues. The Senate will also consider the nomination of board members and commissioners that have been nominated by Governor David Ige. The session is expected to last at least six legislative days.

“We are reconvening the session because the immediate priority is to stabilize the state budget so that we can avoid drastic cuts and furloughs,” said Speaker Saiki.

Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi said the Senate Ways and Means and House Finance committees will look closely at ways to make up for the expected $1 billion shortfall in state revenues.

“Clearly, in the area of visitor arrivals basically down to zero, G.E.T. activity has stopped as well, along with income tax filings deferred to July 20, so some of the most significant impacts have come from these income generators,” said President Kouchi. “While it’s possible that we can do the session in six days to take care of the budgetary process, we might need nine or 10 days overall to finish up business, so we will work in concert with the House through this process.”

The Legislature will operate within the confines of the Governor’s statewide shutdown that still remains in effect. The State Capitol will be closed to the general public, although the public will have an opportunity to submit written testimony and to observe all proceedings through livestream. 

Legislators and legislative staff will be allowed into the Capitol through a single entrance where everyone will be under a temperature check. Masks must be worn in all public spaces, all workspaces will be thoroughly cleaned, and physical distancing rules will be mandatory. Other safety measures are in the process of being finalized.

“We are implementing all appropriate safety measures to protect the health and safety of the public, staff and legislators,” Speaker Saiki said. 

The Senate Ways and Means Committee and the House Finance Committee will hold separate hearings in the State Capitol auditorium. Instructions for the submission of written testimony will be provided when they are finalized.

All committee hearings and House and Senate floor sessions will be televised on Olelo Community Television and live-streamed at

The Senate will maintain physical distancing and incorporate virtual technology to allow some Senators to remain on the neighbor islands during their sessions. 

The House Chamber will not institute remote voting for members as they all have indicated they will be physically present on Oahu for proceedings.

The Legislature has been in recess since March 17 when one lawmaker tested positive for the coronavirus.

For more information, go to

Select State Parks Re-Opening, Prompts Reminders

The DLNR Division of State Parks is re-opening select parks and monuments across the state with an emphasis on social distancing and exercise and continued restrictions on gatherings of any sort. The announcement is in line with Governor Ige’s emergency rules, as well as advice from the Hawai‘i Dept. of Health.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said, “In general, it’s a good idea to help with people’s mental well-being. The fact that these are outdoor/open air spaces with good ventilation means any risk of transmission will be greatly decreased. That said, a few of these do have lookout points or are trails that may not be wide enough at some points to accommodate 6 ft distance, so it will be important to remind people to keep moving and not congregate—i.e., as long as people are moving past each other, even if they’re within 6 ft of each other and not wearing a mask, we wouldn’t categorize those persons as anything but low risk at most and likely no risk”.

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case commented, “The department is excited to cautiously reintroduce State Park access to Hawai‘i’s residents in this unprecedented time of virtually no out-of-state visitors. However, conventional park activities such as parties, gatherings, picnics, setting up on the beach, and camping are still not allowed. This public use is strictly for mobile activities such as hiking and ocean use to support our residents physical and emotional health during the stay at home mandate. For this reason, certain frequently visited parks and access to them remain closed.”

“It is critical that people honor this intent and follow all social distancing practices and park area closures to eliminate gathering. State Parks strongly encourages residents stay within their own ahupua’a and neighborhoods rather than traveling across an island to another community’s remote State Park. Revenue losses require that certain gates remain closed. Inappropriate behavior and changing public health circumstances may require that certain parks be closed again, such as what has recently occurred at some parks on the mainland, “ added Curt Cottrell, DLNR Division of State Parks Administrator.

Check out the latest on open and closed State Parks:



  • Diamond Head State Monument (interior and crater)
  • Heʻeia State Park
  • Lā’ie Point State Wayside
  • Nu’uanu Pali State Wayside
  • Pu’u o Mahuka State Monument
  • Ulupō Heiau State Historic Site
  • ‘Iolani Palace State Monument
  • Royal Mausoleum State Monument


(day use facilities closed & gates locked)

  • Fort Ruger Pathway on exterior of Diamond Head State Monument
  • ‘Aiea Bay State Recreation Area
  • Kaʻena Point State Park (Strictly for hiking and beach exercise on the Mokuleia section and limited beach access for exercise and water use on the Makua and Keawaʻula sections)
  • Mālaekahana State Recreation Area


(day use facilities closed and gates to be opened for parking access)

  • Ahupuaʻa o Kahana State Park
  • Keaīwa Heiau State Recreation Area
  • Wahiawa Freshwater Park
  • Sand Island State Recreation Area


(day use facilities closed and gates to be opened for parking access on weekends)

  • Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline (lookouts closed)
  • Puʻu ʻUalakaʻa State Wayside (lookout closed)
  • Waʻahila Ridge State Recreation Area



  • Kalalau Trail beyond Hanakāpīʻai Valley
  • Polihale State Park (closed for access road repairs)
  • Wailua River State Park (river access for paddling allowed at Kaumuali’i Section only)


(day use facilities closed and gates to remain locked)

  • Kōkeʻe State Park (Awaʻawapuhi trails only/lookouts closed)
  • Russian Fort Elizabeth/Pāʻulaʻula State Historical Park
  • Waimea Canyon State Park (Kukui Trail only/lookouts closed)


(day use facilities closed and gates to be opened for parking access)

  • Ahukini State Recreational Pier (fishing only)
  • Hāʻena State Park
  • Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park/Kalalau Trail – to Hanakāpīʻai only (parking in Hāʻena State Park)
  • Waimea State Recreational Pier (fishing only)



  • Puʻu o La‘i (Little Beach) section of Mākena State Park
  • Halekiʻi-Pihana Heiau State Monument
  • ʻIao Valley State Monument
  • Kaumahina, Wailua and Puaʻa Kaʻa State Waysides


(day use facilities closed and gates to remain locked)

  • Mākena State Park (except Puʻu o Laʻi aka “Little Beach”)


(day use facilities closed and gates to be opened for parking access)

  • Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area



  • ʻAkaka Falls State Park
  • Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park
  • Kohala Historic Sites State Monument
  • Lapakahi State Historical Park
  • Wailoa River State Recreation Area (closed for construction)
  • Wailuku River State Park


(day use facilities closed and gates to remain locked)

  • Kekaha Kai State Park
  • Kīholo State Park Reserve
  • Lava Tree State Monument
  • Kalopā State Recreation Area (hiking/equestrian trail access)


(day use facilities closed and gates to be opened for parking access)

  • Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Area (except Waialea Beach Section)
  • MacKenzie State Recreation Area
  • Manukā State Wayside

Hawaiian monk seals, green sea turtles and other marine animals that frequent our shores have largely had near-shore waters and beaches to themselves for the past six weeks. With today’s announcement of the reopening of select DLNR Division of State Parks units across the state, park managers and aquatic biologists are reminding people to be respectful of the places we share with Hawai‘i’s treasured marine creatures.

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “We’re excited people will once again get out, visit, and experience these open spaces and the wildlife that utilize these areas. It is important to remember that these lands are preserved for cultural, aesthetic, and ecological purposes, and as such have specific rules in place in hopes of maintaining these spaces for times like these as well as for future generations.”

As people begin to increase use of parks, Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles, may be less wary of approaching people and more easily spooked from their haul-out locations and back into the water. With limited volunteer presence during this time, there are fewer visual barriers on beaches than usual, therefore people may be more likely to stumble upon seals. This includes mom and pup pairs as this is the middle of monk seal pupping season. It is important to give moms and nursing pups extra-wide berth during this critical life history stage, both for the protection of the pup and for human safety around protective mother seals.

There have been multiple reports of off-leash dog – monk seal interactions over the past few days. Remember to keep your dogs on leash when you’re on any Hawai‘i shorelines. Interactions between dogs and monk seals can lead to both animals being injured. Violations can carry fines over $2,000.

If you do spot a monk seal or sea turtle and observe any unusual behavior, either with the animals or people interacting with them, please call the NOAA Statewide Marine Animal Hotline (888-256-9840) so a trained wildlife officer can assess the situation.

RESOLUTION 20-108: Urging Governor to Set Specific Measures for Reopening State’s Business & Visitor Industry

Councilperson Heidi Tsuneyoshi released the following statement urging Governor Ige to set forth specific measures for reopening the state’s business and visitor industry:

Councilperson Heidi Tsuneyoshi

The focus of this resolution is to provide a framework on how to reopen Hawaii’s businesses and visitor industry while keeping residents’ health, safety and  economic well-being at the forefront of any decision being made.  

We have already seen the failure of the “mandatory” 14-day quarantine for incoming visitors.  This past weekend we have seen an uptick in visitor arrivals including those describing themselves as “intended residents” which is of great concern.  Our residents have done everything they have been asked to do and have suffered serious financial setbacks as have our local businesses.  

We need to enact policies that protect our residents and our State such as requiring documentation that incoming visitors have been tested at their point of origin for COVID-19 and have received a negative result.  Additionally, secured screening location should already be in place in our airports where incoming visitors are again screened for COVID-19 before going into our communities.  

These safeguards should be implemented immediately to ensure that the sacrifices of our residents and businesses were not in vain and to show strong, proactive leadership which demonstrates that we are doing everything we can to protect our island home.

Hawaii Part of Consortium to Better Map SARS-CoV-2 Transmission

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has kicked off the SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology and Surveillance (SPHERES) consortium, which will greatly expand the use of whole genome sequencing (WGS) of the COVID-19 virus.

This national network of sequencing laboratories will speed the release of SARS-CoV-2 sequence data into the public domain.

SPHERES will provide consistent, real-time sequence data to the public health response teams investigating cases and clusters of COVID-19 across the country. It will help them better understand how the virus is spreading, both nationally and in their local communities. Better data, in turn, will help public health officials interrupt chains of transmission, prevent new cases of illness, and protect and save lives.

“The U.S. is the world’s leader in advanced rapid genome sequencing. This coordinated effort across our public, private, clinical, and academic public health laboratories will play a vital role in understanding the transmission, evolution, and treatment of SARS-CoV-2. I am confident that our finest, most skilled minds are working together to help us save lives today and tomorrow,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D.

Tracking the COVID-19 virus as it evolves

Genomic sequence data can give unprecedented insight into the biology of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and help define the changing landscape of the pandemic. By sequencing viruses from across the United States, CDC and other public health authorities can monitor important changes in the virus and use this information to guide contact tracing, public health mitigation efforts, and infection control strategies.

The SPHERES consortium is an ambitious effort to coordinate SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing nationally, organizing dozens of smaller, individual efforts into a single, distributed network of laboratories, institutions and corporations. The consortium combines the expertise, technology, and resources of 40 state and local public health departments, several large clinical laboratories, and over two dozen collaborating institutions across the federal government, academia, and the private sector.

SPHERES will establish best practices and consensus data standards, accelerate open data sharing, and establish a pool of resources and expertise to help bring cutting-edge technology to the national COVID-19 response.

SPHERES data open, shared

Consortium members share a commitment to rapid open sequence sharing. They plan to submit all useful sequence data into public repositories at the National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information (NLM/NCBI), the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID), and other public sequence repositories. This will help ensure that that viral sequence data from across the United States is rapidly available for public health decision making and freely accessible to researchers everywhere.

Consortium members include:

Federal agencies and laboratories

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Advanced Molecular Detections, Argonne National Laboratory, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Office of Genomics and Advanced Technology, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Library of Medicine’s, National Center for Biotechnology Information and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

State/local public health laboratories

Arizona, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Mexico, North Dakota, Nevada, New York, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Academic Institutions

Baylor University, Cornell University, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York University, Northern Arizona University, University of Buffalo, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Davis, University of California, Irvine, University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, San Francisco, University of California, Santa Cruz, University of Chicago, University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, University of New Mexico, University of Washington and Yale University


Abbott Diagnostics, bioMérieux, Color Genomics, Gingko Bioworks, IDbyDNA, In-Q-Tel, Verily Life Sciences, LabCorp, One Codex, Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Pacific Biosciences, Qiagen and Quest Diagnostics

*Names of corporations are provided for information purposes only, and their inclusion here does not constitute an endorsement of the corporations or any of their commercial products or services by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Non-profit public health or research institutes

Association of Public Health Laboratories, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Broad Institute, Chan Zuckerberg BioHub, J. Craig Venter Institute, Public Health Alliance for Genomic Epidemiology, Scripps Research, The Jackson Laboratory, Translational Genomics Research Institute – North and the Walder Foundation

For the past six years, CDC’s Office of Advanced Molecular Detection program has invested in federal and state public health laboratories to expand the use of pathogen genomics and other advanced laboratory technologies for infectious disease surveillance and outbreak response. The current consortium investment aims to save lives in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and prepare the United States and the world for future pandemic response.

To learn more about genomic sequencing or CDC’s work in advanced molecular detection, visit

Committee on COVID-19 Finalizing Hawaii’s Plan to Restart Economy

The House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness today looked deeper into coordinating the declining number of coronavirus cases with the amount of business restrictions needed to safely begin Hawaiʻi’s economic recovery.

Hawaiʻi Medical Service Association President & CEO Dr. Mark Mugiishi shared charts with the committee on a public health plan nearing completion that has been developed in cooperation between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The plan offers specific recommendations on when a business can reopen based on the level of coronavirus risk in the state.

The model has four levels of restrictions to stop the spread of the virus based on infection levels ranging from complete lockdown of the community, which is where we are right now, to slowly reopening public access until we reach our “new normal.” As the health risks decrease, businesses can incorporate appropriate amounts of public contact, social distancing, and repeated cleaning to reopen.

Mugiishi reiterated to the committee that the four pillars of containment that must be adhered to include screening, testing, tracking, and quarantine measures. Following these pillars will allow us to reduce transmission rate of the disease from one person to another.

Migiishi said the model being presented to the committee has been developed in coordination with Alan Oshima, who is heading Governor David Ige’s Hawaiʻi Economic and Community Recovery & Resiliency Plan, and Major General Kenneth Hara, Adjutant General for the State of Hawaiʻi, Department of Defense.

Dr. Carl Bonham, Executive Director of University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO), shared the preliminary results of a survey of more than 600 business and many business associations on what they are experiencing right now due to the pandemic and what it will take for them to reopen their businesses.

Bonham said about one-third of the businesses surveyed have zero revenue right now, but that many expect to reopen when conditions allow at about 60 percent of their previous levels. He said depending on conditions that by the end of May to mid-June, that we could see 40 to 50 percent of our jobs in the local economy return almost immediately. That is about 90,000 jobs, he said. The tourism related jobs will take longer.

U.S. Congressman Ed Case updated the committee on federal funding earmarked for Hawaiʻi. He said of the $500 billion CARE Act supplement passed by the U.S. Congress last week, Hawaiʻi can expect to see about $4 billion to $4.5 billion with funds targeting small businesses, hospitals and health care, and testing kits.

Case said Congress is already working on another bill to further support small businesses, fund social safety nets at the state and county government level, and provide adequate PPE or Personal Protective Equipment, for the medical community.

Representative Richard H.K. Onishi, Chair of the House Tourism and International Affairs Committee, updated the select committee on the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Onishi said the package contains $19 billion in immediate relief to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers nationwide.

Onishi provided the committee with a report from Senator Mazie Hirono’s office detailing the resources available to Hawaiʻi’s agriculture industry.

Eric Kingma, Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi Longline Association, said that seafood is not eligible for the federal support because it is not considered meat. He said Hawaiʻi residents eat twice the amount of seafood as other states and the industry is in desperate need of support.

House Speaker Scott Saiki agreed and asked Representative Onishi to follow up on the federal support for seafood.

Kingma also provided the committee with a report on the impacts of the coronavirus on the longline industry.

Pamela Tumpap, President/Secretary of the Maui Chamber of Commerce, urged the committee to work closely with the states of California, Oregon and Washington as we reopen the economy and work to bring tourists back.

Tumpap said the West Coast is a primary source for tourists and aligning with them in recovery efforts would demonstrate our commitment to the region. Tumpap submitted an extensive report by the National Governors Association on steps needed to recover from the pandemic.

Speaker Saiki supported the idea and will ask that Alan Oshima discuss it with Governor David Ige.

The committee discussed specific economic business needs including rent forgiveness, slow processing of unemployment benefits, and the upcoming need for child care for working families as schools remain closed.

Speaker Saiki, who is one of the 100 State Capitol workers who volunteered to be trained to process unemployment claims, said more than 10,000 unemployment claims were processed in just one day last week. He said 580 volunteers are now working two daily shifts Monday through Saturday which he hopes will soon clear the backlog of claims.

Hawaii Gas Extends COVID-19 Payment Plan Options

With the extension of Hawaii’s statewide stay-at-home order through May 31, 2020, Hawaii Gas continues to maintain gas service for customers with social distancing to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Throughout the stay-at-home order, Hawaii Gas has reliably supplied nearly 70,000 customers statewide — including first responders, hospitals, restaurants, businesses, and residents — with gas energy for cooking, water heating, backup electricity generation and other essential needs. Hawaii Gas crews continue to service customers and make propane deliveries, and are maintaining social distancing protocols for the health and safety of our community.

Hawaii Gas offices statewide will remain closed through May 31, 2020. Customers may pay their bill by mail; online or by phone via Speedpay; or through the drop box at their local Hawaii Gas’ office (checks only). Customers may also pay their bill at the Western Union counter at their local market. More information about payment methods is available at

Customers who are unable to pay their gas bill will not have their gas service interrupted at least through May 31, 2020.

  • Be aware as phone scams are on the rise. If customers receive a call threatening to cancel or shut-off service, they should hang up and call Hawaii Gas directly.
  • Customers who are experiencing financial difficulties are encouraged to call Hawaii Gas, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., to discuss payment plan options. Phone numbers for each island are:

Oahu: (808) 535-5933 Maui: (808) 877-6557 Hilo: (808) 935-0021 Kona: (808) 329-2984 Molokai: (800) 828-9359 Lanai: (800) 828-9359 Kauai: (808) 245-3301

Public Commenting on Young Brothers Changing Its Sailing Schedule

On Friday, April 24, 2020, Young Brothers filed a tariff transmittal with the PUC asking to make changes to its weekly sailing schedule, citing the need to cut costs by reducing weekly sailings as a result of the COVID-19 emergency situation.

Hilo Harbor

Anyone who wants to file a public comment on this transmittal can submit a comment by email before May 5, 2020, to, and reference YB Tariff Transmittal No. 20-0003.

Related Information

Mayor Caldwell: Concerns & Suggestions About State’s 6th Supplemental Proclamation

From Mayor Kirk Caldwell:

“We agree with many of the actions taken today including the opening of beaches for exercise, and the extension of the 14 day travel quarantine.

However, as noted in the attached letter, we have concerns that the action taken today will affect the City and County of Honolulu’s ability to act quickly and deliberately during this crisis. The City and County of Honolulu and I as Mayor agree on the need for greater consistency and coordination of decision-making between the State and all four counties.

As Mayor of the City and County of Honolulu, I will continue to make decisions based on science, data, and informed by medical professionals, along with nationwide best practices. We will work diligently to provide the Governor and HI-EMA with sufficient advance review of any orders or proclamations that we plan to issue that directly impact our residents. I look forward to the Governor’s expedited review and approval without delay so that we can continue to stay ahead of this pandemic.

The re-opening of Honolulu’s economy must be done in a deliberate way, with continued coordination between the counties and our state government. The City and County of Honolulu is committed to continuing to do this.”

Census Bureau: New Surveys to Track Trends in Small Business During Pandemic

In response to the unprecedented circumstances presented by COVID-19 and the urgent need for data, the U.S. Census Bureau is launching two new experimental surveys to measure temporal social and economic trends in the nation’s small businesses and households over the next three months. Responses from these experimental surveys will be posted within weeks of collection and will provide insight into the scope of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic response on social and economic measures in the U.S.

The experimental Small Business Pulse Survey includes a limited number of questions on topics such as location closings, changes in employment, disruptions in the supply chain, the use of federal assistance programs, and expectations concerning future operations. The survey should take just 5 minutes to complete. Each week, over 100,000 small businesses will receive the Small Business Pulse Survey and will be asked to respond within one week. Over the course of nine weeks, nearly one million small businesses will receive an invitation to participate. This survey defines small businesses as having a single location with 1 to 499 employees.

Results of this survey could provide useful information to the public, businesses, and policymakers for understanding how changes in business operations, employment, hours, and the availability of consumer goods and services are impacting American life. Data is planned to be posted weekly beginning in mid-May and is expected to include estimates for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, as well as for the 50 most populated Metropolitan Statistical Areas. 

The experimental Household Pulse Survey is the result of an effort by the Census Bureau to work in collaboration with other federal statistical agencies to document temporal trends in how individuals are experiencing business curtailment and closures, stay-at-home orders, school closures, changes in the availability of consumer goods and consumer patterns, and other abrupt and significant changes to American life.  Updates in question wording and weighting procedures are likely to change over the course of the implementation. Census expects to produce and disseminate data on a weekly basis. The sample is designed to produce estimates for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as for the 15 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas.  

Click here to learn more.

State Releases “Economic & Community Pathway to Recovery”

The Hawaii House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness has released their “Economic & Community Pathway to Recovery.

Phase 1 of the plan is to focus on stabilizing the number of COVID-19 cases, especially critical care, within the state and addressing Hawai’i’s immediate health, safety, and economic needs.

Phase 2 of the plan is to begin to reopen gradually by sequencing which activities open, based on public health safeguards. Also part of phase 2 is to find paths to recover the economy, and support society in balancing lives and livelihood.

Phase 3 of the plan is to build a resilient economy, with strong business and job growth and to be resilient with disease control, and treatment within sustainable medical capacities possible.

You can read the full plan here.

Media Release:

The House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness today moved from research and planning for Hawaiʻi’s economic recovery post-coronavirus to focusing on the implementation of those plans. 

The committee heard detailed presentations by Alan Oshima, who is heading Governor David Ige’s Hawaiʻi Economic and Community Recovery & Resiliency Plan, and Hawaiʻi Medical Service Association President & CEO Dr. Mark Mugiishi.  

Oshima’s report includes a comprehensive report titled “Economic and Community Pathway to Recovery.”  The report lays out the prerequisites to incrementally reopen the economy in three phases: phase 1, stabilization of the COVID-19 cases; phase 2, the gradual reopening and recovery of the economy; and phase 3, building a resilient economy with strong business and job growth. 

Oshima said we are now in the stabilization phase and moving cautiously, but quickly forward. Any move to phase 2 reopening must be tied to healthcare readiness. 

Mugiishi told the committee that everyone is closely following the number of coronavirus infections on a day-to-day basis and we may be gettingclose to reducing some economic restrictions. He said it is unrealistic to think that we will completely eradicate the infection  before taking the firststeps to reopen the economy, but the four pillars of containment that must be adhered to include screening, testing, tracking, and quarantine measures. 

He said the committee is this week preparing work plans with an aggressive timeline for all the four pillars. These steps are very complex requiringmassive amounts of people to process, he said. 

Based on reports submitted to the committee, the plans will be submitted to a leadership team that has the authority to implement them. That team includes Governor David Ige, House Speaker Scott Saiki, Senate President Ron Kouchi, First Hawaiian Bank CEO Robert S. Harrison, Bank of Hawaii President & CEO Peter Ho, and several leaders in the medical field. 

Once approved, the plans will be presented to county and local leaders to tweak to make sure they are feasible before being enacted. 

“We often talk about the government and the private sector working together to solve problems,” said Speaker Scott Saiki. “Solving these problems is something that government cannot do alone. We really welcome and appreciate HMSA and other private sector support and resources.” 

Committee member Peter Ingram, Chairman of Hawaiian Airlines, told the committee that the airline has secured a 5-year federal loan to provide liquidity during the crisis. He said it now costs between $4 million to $4.5 million a day to run the airlines. 

Ingram said the funds will provide payroll support through the end of September. He said the loan requires Hawaiian to maintain some service levelsto points on the mainland, but last week the company was given approval to limit those flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles. He said that will allow them to fly fewer flights with little or no passengers. 

Representative Della Au Belatti asked if Hawaiian will continue to carry cargo on its mainland flights. 

Ingram said they will, and that those charges are helping to cover their fuel costs. 

This briefing included an update on the State’s receipt of federal CARES Act funds and its allocation and disbursement strategy from State Department of Taxation Director Rona Suzuki. 

Suzuki told the committee that $4 billion is expected to come to Hawaiʻi through the CARES Act and an additional $10 million for an emergency education program the state applied for last week. 

She said some funds cannot be used to replace budget items or to pay for unemployment benefits and they are waiting for federal guidance on specific spending questions. The department will closely watch additional federal funding bills for how it will apply to Hawaiʻi, she said. 

Brian Miyamoto, Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau, gave a presentation on behalf of the state’s agricultural businesses. Miyamoto told the committee that farmers have had terrible losses and need government support to stay in business. He said the state’s 7,300 farms rely heavily on the tourism industry including hotels and restaurants to sell their products. 

Miyamoto said with limited cash flow, farm workers have been laid off and many farms are on the verge of shutting down. He reminded the committee that hurricane season is quickly approaching which often hits food producers hard.  

Miyamoto said many farmers may not last through the end of May and they need assurances of support to be able to survive the pandemic. With so many people now unemployed, the Food Bank has become their best customer, he said. 

He asked the committee to support a food security subsidy program, to help some farmers markets to reopen as soon as possible, to support the FoodBank, and to help expand federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) programs. 

“People need to eat,” Miyamoto said. 

Speaker Saiki asked Representative Belatti to work with Miyamoto on the SNAP expansion and asked Representative Richard Onishi to check on the status of federal farm grants. 

Speaker Saiki said the committee recognizes the importance of agriculture to the state economy and asked Miyamoto to join the committee to keep them updated on farming issues.  

Hawaii Public Schools Will Not Reopen, Distance Learning Continues

The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) announced today the continuation of enrichment and distance learning through May 28, the last day of the 2019-20 school year. The decision was made based on the latest guidance and information from health officials and elected leaders.

“This pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way that education will be delivered at all levels and especially how our Department will operate moving forward,” Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto said. “We have pushed our boundaries and created new ways of delivering on our mission, including expanding distance learning opportunities, establishing an equity of access approach to devices and the internet, and exploring work from home approaches that can help us rethink our real estate footprint for non-instructional staff. I want to acknowledge the resiliency of the HIDOE workforce and thank them for rising to the challenge of looking for innovative ways to move our work forward through this unprecedented time.” 

On April 2, the Board of Education unanimously approved the Department’s request to modify high school graduation and commencement requirements for the graduating class of 2020. This approval in part helped finalize plans to utilize grades from the third quarter to determine the final grade for student courses. In addition, an announcement was made earlier this week that traditional commencement ceremonies would be replaced with alternative celebrations due to safety concerns and social distancing guidance. Celebrations will occur in the later half of May. 

The Department’s focus will shift in the coming weeks toward a rollout of summer school, which will largely occur using distance learning, as well as creating a plan for school year 2020-21 given the changing parameters of social distancing and opening of businesses and services. In addition, the Department will initiate a health triage hotline and telehealth service by the end of the month through the Hawaii Keiki program, a partnership between HIDOE and the University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene. The service will provide parents access to a phone line answered by a registered nurse (RN) who can assess physical and mental health needs, connect public school students to services, and follow up with the family to ensure services were received.   

School facilities have been closed to students since March 19, but the school system remains open. All HIDOE employees continue to work remotely with the exception of those who are considered essential and must perform their duties at a campus or office.

Schools have launched distance learning opportunities and learning packets are distributed via email, school websites and some in-person. The Department has also stood up a resource for parents available at  

HIDOE COVID-19 updates will continue to be posted on the Department’s website at

All Hawaii Beaches Closed by Governor’s Proclamation

Governor David Ige today, issued a Fifth Supplementary Proclamation to his Emergency Rules. This one includes limitations on activities outside homes or places of residence and closes all beaches in Hawai‘i. It became clear that many people are continuing to access beaches, waters, and trails for social and recreational activities without proper social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis. Such activity contributes to the risk of spread of coronavirus across the state.

Hapuna Beach

Under these new rules, all beaches are closed, which means no sitting, standing, lying down, lounging, sunbathing, or loitering on beaches and sandbars. People can still cross beaches to access the ocean for outdoor exercise like surfing, solo paddling and swimming as long as social distances are maintained. 

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “We encouraged more severe restrictions after our law enforcement officers (DOCARE) and many people noted large groups of people continuing to congregate on beaches in close proximity to one another. Social distancing requirements are necessary for all of us to practice until COVID-19 is brought under control here in Hawai‘i. The Fifth Supplementary Proclamation does include exceptions which will allow people to still get outside and enjoy nature.”

The emergency rules also contain provisions for boating, fishing, and hiking. No more than two people are allowed on any boat in Hawai‘i’s water for recreational purposes, unless they are part of a single residential or family unit sharing the same address. Both people on the boat are required to maintain physical distancing of six-feet from one another, as is reasonably possible. All boats are required to stay 20-feet from one another.

Group hiking on State trails is not allowed, again unless all participants are part of a single residential or family unit sharing the same address. People who want to hike alone, but who want to have another person nearby for safety reasons, are required to maintain a distance of not less than 20-feet from each other.

People can actively engage in fishing and gathering to get food. No groups of two or more people can engage in fishing and gathering in state waters or state lands, unless all in the group are part of a single residential or family unit sharing the same address. 
DLNR is calling on each individual to take personal responsibility to limit the impact they have on their community and self-exposure to essential activities only. If you feel the need to hike, it’s recommend that you first check the Na Ala Hele website:

Most up to date guidelines for personal safety and distancing requirements.
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Certain DLNR-managed coastal and trail features are deemed unsuitable for visitation due the inability to achieve the desired social distancing recommendations, remoteness of location exacerbating public safety concerns, and known history of issues such as illegal camping and social gatherings. Please try to stay in or near your own ahupua‘a of residence for your outdoor exercise. For a complete list of closed state parks visit:

Violations of the emergency rules are a petty misdemeanor and could result in fines of up to $5,000 and one year in jail, or both.

Governor Ige, Senate President Kouchi Express Condolences on Death of Former State Rep. Dennis Yamada

Gov. David Ige and Sen. President Ronald D. Kouchi offered their heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of former State Rep. Dennis R. Yamada, who died on Sunday, April 12, 2020 at the age of 75.

Yamada served six terms as a State Representative from Kaua‘i, starting in 1970 through 1982, serving as chair of the House Consumer Protection & Commerce Committee from 1972 through 1978. He also served as chair of the House Judiciary Committee from 1978 through 1980, and House Majority Leader from 1980 through 1982.

“Dawn and I join the community in mourning the loss of former Rep. Yamada. We thank him for the years he dedicated to proudly serving the people of Kaua‘i and our state,” said Gov. Ige.

“The state has lost a dedicated public servant who tried to steer public policy to positively affect the people of Hawaiʻi – through his leadership and service as a state representative, University of Hawaiʻi Regent, and Chair of the Public Utilities Commission,” said Sen. Kouchi.

Gov. Ige will issue a flag order for the day of Yamada’s memorial service, which has not yet been confirmed.