Hawaii Passenger Arrivals by Air

Yesterday, 513 people arrived in Hawaii including 133 visitors and 182 residents. In comparison, during this same time last year, nearly 30,000 passengers arrived in Hawaii daily, including residents and visitors.

The state’s 14-day mandatory self-quarantine started on March 26th for all passengers arriving in Hawaii from out of state. The order was expanded on April 1st to include interisland travelers.

This table shows the number of people who arrived by air from out of state yesterday and does not include interisland travel.

HHS Funding to Provide $186 Million for COVID-19 Response

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is announcing upcoming action by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide $186,000,000 in funding for additional resources to state and local jurisdictions in support of our nation’s response to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Testing and surveillance is a vital piece of our efforts to beat the coronavirus, and this new funding will expand our ability to track and prevent the virus’s spread across the country,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “State and local public health departments are on the frontlines of our fight against the pandemic, and these new resources will help them build the testing and surveillance capabilities needed to beat the new threat we face.”

“Increasing the capacity of our nation’s public health infrastructure is critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19 in communities across this country,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. “These funds will augment core public health capabilities including surveillance and predictive analytics, laboratory capacity, qualified frontline deployers, and the ability to rapidly respond to emerging disease clusters in communities that currently have limited person to person spread of the virus.”

Using supplemental funding, CDC will:

  • Supplement an existing cooperative agreement to a number of states and local jurisdictions identified as having the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases (“hot zones”) and jurisdictions with accelerating or rapidly accelerating COVID-19 cases. This award will support a range of activities such as lab equipment, supplies, staffing, shipping, infection control, surge staffing, monitoring of individuals, and data management.
  • Supplement an existing cooperative agreement to state jurisdictions through the Emerging Infections Program (EIP) to enhance surveillance capabilities. Activities include investigating and assessing the burden and severity of COVID-19, evaluating and determining risk factors and outcomes, and planning and implementing prevention strategies.  These activities will build on existing programs developed for influenza and other respiratory pathogens. Funds will also be used to assess and evaluate exposed/infected healthcare personnel through clinical interviews to better identify risk factors and protective factors for COVID-19 infection.

CDC will use existing networks to reach out to state and local jurisdictions to access this initial funding.

To view the list of CDC funding actions to jurisdictions, click here.

Senators Urge Student Loan Companies to Provide Relief During Pandemic

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and 13 of his colleagues today called on student loan companies to allow its borrowers to suspend payments without penalty and take additional steps to aid borrowers affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Sen. Brian Schatz

In a series of letters to Wells Fargo, SLM Corporation (Sallie Mae), Navient, Citizens Financial Group, Discover Financial Services, the PNC Financial Services Group, Truist Financial Corporation, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri, Social Finance (Sofi), LendKey, Reunion Student Loan Finance Corporation and College Avenue Student Loans, the senators urged the companies to provide immediate relief to private student loan borrowers, similar to the steps the government has taken to allow federal borrowers to pause and avoid penalties on their federal student loans.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in an unprecedented and widespread public health and economic crisis, significantly upending life for every American,” Schatz and the lawmakers wrote. “For private student loan borrowers, these economic disruptions will be uniquely devastating due to private student loan borrowers’ lack of critical protections, forgiveness programs, and repayment options available to federal student loan borrowers.”

The senators asked student loan companies to take the following steps to significantly mitigate harm:                                                                                      

  1. Allow borrowers to suspend payments without fees or consequence. The letter urges companies to suspend payments without fees, restrictions, or consequences to borrowers’ credit, and to make this relief automatic for all borrowers, but at a minimum, for all delinquent borrowers, to ensure that interest does not accrue or capitalize, and to provide notice and guidance to borrowers to help them resume repayment once the pandemic subsides.
  2. Ensure that payment suspension does not trigger cosigner consequences. The letter urges companies to suspend monthly payments for borrowers without any penalties (financial or otherwise), payment obligations, or credit consequences for cosigners, who tend to be older Americans most vulnerable to COVID-19.
  3. Immediately halt all involuntary collection efforts. The letter urges companies to immediately halt all involuntary debt collections efforts, including any lawsuits against borrowers who have defaulted or are delinquent on their loans.
  4. Cancel or discharge loans of distressed borrowers. The letter urges companies to cancel or discharge as many delinquent loans as possible during this crisis, and especially the loans of borrowers who have filed for bankruptcy or who are otherwise in clear financial distress that will inhibit their ability to ever fully repay their loans.
  5. Expand loan modification and affordable repayment options. The letter urges companies to permanently provide additional, affordable repayment and loan modification options for private student loan borrowers, including options for borrowers who see long-term changes in their income.

“Congress has a critical role to play here, and we will continue to fight for legislation that includes aggressive policies such as broad debt cancellation to provide all student loan borrowers with relief that both responds to the scale of this emergency and stimulates our economy,” wrote Schatz and the lawmakers. “We, however, believe that your company also has a responsibility to do more during the COVID-19 crisis.”

The senators have requested responses to their letters no later than April 20, 2020. Full text of the letter available here.

COVID-19: Federal Funding for Hawai‘i Communities, Transit & Housing

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) announced Federal funding coming to Hawai‘i, including over $100 million for COVID-19 response for public transit and over $7 million in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). The funding implements portions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), passed by Congress just over a week ago.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

“The recent passage of the CARES Act provided critical assistance for individuals, businesses, and essential services, and we are starting to see these resources delivered to Hawai‘i,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “These resources are going directly to our counties and to support housing programs for those in need.”

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has allocated a total of $107,816,109 for transit in Hawai‘i to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus. The money will reach Hawai‘i through the Urbanized Area, Formula Grants Program Rural Areas Formula Grants Program, and the Tribal Transit Formula Grants Program. The funds are vital to keeping public transportation systems in Hawai‘i — which have seen dramatic drops in use and ridership — survive the pandemic and be there for Hawai‘i’s residents that depend on it to get back to work once the public health crisis has passed.

Starting April 1, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that mortgage servicers must extend deferred or reduced mortgage payment options (forbearance) for up to six months, and must provide an additional six months of forbearance if requested by borrowers with a financial hardship that makes them unable to pay their mortgage due to the COVID-19 National Emergency. This mandate implements provisions contained in the landmark Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). You can read more details in the Department’s full announcement.

HUD is also in charge of existing grant programs Congress provided with additional funds through the CARES Act to help respond to the pandemic.

Through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Hawai‘i was awarded the following funds in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Hawai‘i County — $1,543,033
  • Kaua‘i County — $412,929
  • Maui County — $1,104,173
  • Honolulu — $4,872,982

These funds will help construct medical facilities, expand capacity of hospitals, replace HVAC systems, support business manufacturing medical supplies, construct a group living facility, and carry out job training of health care workers and technicians.

Additionally, Honolulu is receiving $95,143 through HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS) as well as $2,429,569 through Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) as part of the CARES Act. ESG funds support the building and operations of more emergency shelters for homeless individuals and families, provide hotel/motel vouchers, childcare and education services, and prevent individuals from becoming homeless.

Background: On March 27, the House passed H.R.748 by voice vote. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is the third bill passed by Congress as part of its emergency response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The bill includes direct cash payments to Americans, assistance for those who are out of work due to the outbreak, funding for small businesses, hospitals, and health care workers, and state and local governments. The bill’s funding for state and local governments includes at least $1.2 billion for Hawai‘i. The CARES Act also provided $25 billion to transit agencies to help to prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In March, working with Hawai‘i’s Congressional Delegation, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sent two letters calling on President Trump to Hawai‘i’s request for medical equipment, supplies and resources for the state.

Rep. Gabbard has hosted three telephone town hall events, on March 18March 25, and April 1, in order to update Hawai‘i residents with news about what is being done to confront the pandemic and assist those who are being affected by it. She was joined on these calls by state and federal public officials as well as community leaders to answer questions from across the state.

She has also created a COVID-19 resource webpage on her website as well as sent out regular e-newsletter updates to keep connected with constituents as developments happen.

On March 21, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard called for an immediate implementation of a 14-day self-quarantine for all passengers arriving in Hawaiʻi, both visitors and returning residents. The state later announced that a self-quarantine requirement would be implemented on March 26, but Rep. Tulsi Gabbard continued to advocate for an immediate implementation. She also sent a letter calling on the President to issue a minimum two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order — a proven, effective solution to slowing the spread of the virus

Rep. Gabbard voted to pass the first round of emergency funds to address the novel coronavirus. Some Federal funds are already reaching Hawai‘i. The first coronavirus emergency funding bill that I helped pass in Congress has now led to over $750,000 being allocated to 14 community health centers in our district.

Rep. Gabbard voted on March 14 to pass H.R.6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which will provide free testing for COVID-19, two weeks of paid sick leave, up to three months paid family and medical leave, unemployment insurance for furloughed workers, food security for those who rely on food stamps, student meals, senior nutrition plans, and food banks, and increase federal Medicaid funds for local, state, tribal and territorial governments and health systems.

Rep. Gabbard also introduced H.Res. 897, a resolution that would provide an emergency non-taxable Universal Basic Payment of $1,000 per month to all adult Americans until COVID-19 no longer presents a public health emergency. She was the earliest Member of Congress to introduce legislation for a Universal Basic Income-like payment as a temporary economic stimulus package to directly and immediately help Americans as they weather this crisis.

As the virus was first spreading in different parts of the world, Rep. Gabbard called on the Trump Administration to suspend flights from South Korea and Japan given the prevalence of COVID-19 infections in these countries, until they can guarantee all passengers will be tested prior to boarding flights to the United States.

In order to ensure that any treatment developed for COVID-19 is accessible and affordable, Rep. Gabbard joined a letter to President Trump demanding that pharmaceutical companies are not issued exclusive licenses for the production of such treatments or capitalize on drugs that have been funded by taxpayer dollars.

Rep. Gabbard also wrote to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calling for clear guidelines for state and local governments to receive federal reimbursement for the costs they are incurring as part of their response to this public health crisis.

New Website for Mental Health & Homeless Service Providers

Today, the Behavioral Health and Homelessness Statewide Unified Response Group (BHHSURG) launched a website to ensure the continuity of coverage of essential health and homelessness services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click to view website

The website features resources for providers who work with mental health and homeless populations, including provider Q&A webinars, weekly newsletters, updates from partners, and guidance on using telehealth and personal protective equipment. The site also contains information for clients and consumers, such as guidance on everyday prevention and how to access services. The goal is to enable providers and the people they serve to find answers to common questions and to provide them with updates to behavioral health homelessness and other social services during this challenging crisis.

“This website will help us stay connected to our providers and the community, allowing us to share important COVID-19 news and guidance statewide,” said Eddie Mersereau, Deputy Director of Behavioral Health at the Hawai‘i State Department of Health. “Behavioral health and homelessness services remain essential during this worldwide pandemic and will be vital far beyond its resolution as a result of economic, social and psychological impacts.”

The BHHSURG was formed to oversee the majority of the state’s public behavioral health and homelessness services systems. Partners include the Department of Health’s Behavioral Health Administration, the Governor’s Office, Department of Human Services’ Homeless Program Office, and all four counties.

To view the website or to subscribe to the BHHSURG newsletter, visit bhhsurg.hawaii.gov.

DOH: Face Masks are NO Substitute for Physical Distancing

The Hawai‘i Department of Health reports that across the state, customers and staff at pharmacies, supermarkets, and take-out food establishments are wearing cloth masks and using physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many local and national chain stores have established controls on how many customers can enter a store at one time.

“I’m pleased to see how quickly people are responding to the guidance to use face covering in addition to physical distancing and only going out for essential reasons,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson. “We urge all essential businesses to immediately implement physical distancing measures, throughout their operations, not just at the check-out counters. Wearing a cloth or fabric mask complements other critical measures and can prevent spreading the disease to others.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health (DOH) have recommended wearing a cloth face covering in public places, like stores and at takeout food establishments, masks are not a substitute from physical distancing.

“Physical distancing is still the most effective way of preventing the spread of this disease in Hawai‘i,” said Anderson. “If you aren’t used to wearing a mask, it’s difficult to remember not to touch your face when putting it on or adjusting it. It is so important to avoid touching your face with unwashed hands to prevent catching the virus.”

The CDC guidance emphasizes that maintaining 6-foot physical distancing remains important for slowing the spread of the virus. Masks are primarily considered an infection source control measure designed to keep sick people from spreading their germs to others. Masks complement physical distancing.  They are not a substitute for stay-at-home orders and probably less effective than frequent handwashing and simply staying a safe distance away from other people, who may be infected and not know it.

“It’s alright,” Anderson added, “to politely remind others to practice good physical distancing, even when they’re wearing a mask.”

Foundation Donates $3 Million to Hawaii in Fight Against COVID-19

Bank of Hawaii Foundation announces an unprecedented $3 million donation to Hawai‘i Community Foundation’s (HCF) Hawaiʻi Resilience Fund, which was established by HCF and the Omidyar ‘Ohana Fund to address the growing social and economic impacts of COVID-19 in Hawaii.

Through the Hawaiʻi Resilience Fund, the Bank of Hawaii Foundation, along with its executives and board of directors, will contribute $1 million to each of the causes below to help:

1. Address the health and safety of our community. (For example: obtaining necessary medical equipment and protecting frontline healthcare professionals across the state);

2. Feed and nourish the community. (For example: supporting local feeding programs and statewide foodbanks);

3. Enable economic revitalization. (For example: Creating access to affordable capital for small businesses and nonprofits; and low-cost loans for ALICE families – the population in our community who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed).

“As this pandemic continues, Bank of Hawaii remains fully committed to being part of the solution in addressing the immediate as well as long-term needs of our community,” said Peter S. Ho, chairman, president and CEO of Bank of Hawaii. “We hope this donation to HCF’s Hawaiʻi Resilience Fund will make a significant impact by allowing us to help our community in the broadest way possible.”

“Without question, this level of giving will help to change the trajectory of COVID-19’s spread in Hawai‘i, support thousands of vulnerable individuals at this time of need, and help businesses, nonprofits, and communities recover from the potential economic consequences of the virus,” said Micah Kāne, president and CEO of Hawai‘i Community Foundation. “A contribution of this size is like an anchor; it allows for more certainty in our funding and creates opportunities to plan, strategize, and raise our impact over the long-term.”

CDC Launches New Weekly COVID-19 Surveillance Report

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is modifying existing surveillance systems to track COVID-19, and posted the first of what will be a weekly surveillance report called, “COVIDView.” The report, updated each Friday, will summarize and interpret key indicators, including information related to COVID-19 outpatient visitsemergency department visitshospitalizations and deaths, as well as laboratory data.

The first COVIDView shows:

  • Visits to outpatient providers and emergency departments for illnesses with symptom presentation similar to COVID-19 are elevated compared to what is normally seen at this time of year. At this time, there is little influenza (flu) virus circulation.
  • The overall cumulative COVID-19 associated hospitalization rate is 4.6 per 100,000, with the highest rates in persons 65 years and older (13.8 per 100,000) and 50-64 years (7.4 per 100,000). These rates are similar to what is seen at the beginning of an annual influenza epidemic.
  • The percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) increased to 8.2% and is above the epidemic threshold of 7.2%. The percent of deaths due to pneumonia has increased sharply since the end of February, while those due to influenza increased modestly through early March and declined this week. This could reflect an increase in deaths from pneumonia caused by non-influenza associated infections, including COVID-19.
  • The National Center for Health Statistics is monitoring deaths associated with COVID-19. Those data are available beginning today and will be featured in this report next week.

COVIDView specifically reports the following:

  • Virus information: This includes COVID-19 diagnostic testing data provided by public health and clinical laboratories. For example, COVIDView will include the percentage of respiratory specimens collected from patients that test positive for SARS-COV-2.
  • Outpatient and Emergency Department Visits: This is syndromic (i.e., not laboratory confirmed disease) data and will be reported as the percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) or COVID-19-like illness (CLI) nationally and in each of the 10 Health and Human Services (HHS) surveillance regions across the country. This data is provided through two surveillance systems: the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like-illness Surveillance Network (ILINet) and the National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP).
  • Severe Disease Information: This includes information on COVID-19-associated hospitalizations and deaths. The hospitalization data is provided by COVID-NET, which conducts population-based surveillance for laboratory-confirmed COVID-19-associated hospitalizations among children and adults through a network of over 250 acute care hospitals in 14 states. Mortality data is provided by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which reports provisional death counts based on death certificate data received and coded by the National Center for Health Statistics. COVID-NET hospitalization data and NCHS mortality data are summarized in COVIDView each week, but they also each have a webpage where this data is posted (links provided below).
  • Additional surveillance systems and data sources, including expansions of the currently launched systems and sources of data, will be added over time.

Links for additional information:

  • COVIDView (A Weekly Surveillance Summary of U.S. COVID-19 Activity)
  • COVID-NET (U.S. COVID-19 Hospitalization Data)
  • NCHS (U.S. COVID-19 Mortality Data)

Statement on First COVID-19 Related Death on Maui

The Hawaii Department of Health has confirmed the first COVID-19 related death in Maui County, Mayor Michael Victorino announced this morning.

“My heart is heavy with this tragic news,” Mayor Victorino said. “Mrs. Victorino and I offer our deepest condolences to this individual’s family and know that our community will also offer support and love during this difficult time.”

According to the Department of Health, the individual was an older male resident with underlying health conditions.

Mike Rembis, Chief Executive Officer of Maui Health, provided the following statement:

“We want to express our deepest condolences to this individual’s family and friends,” Rembis said. “We ask our community to continue to rally around each other in support, to respect our Mayor’s stay-at-home-orders, and adhere to guidelines for social distancing, handwashing and hygiene. We will continue to do our part and protect our patients and staff. “

“Our Maui County ohana is strong and we must support and protect each other,” Mayor Victorino said. “Everyone must stay home and only go out in public for essential purposes. Now is not the time for parties and gatherings. If you do have to leave home, make sure you wear a mask and practice social distancing.

“We love this community and our county. I will be with all of you every step of the way through this pandemic, but we’re going to need everyone’s help to keep our families and loved ones safe.”

Highlights of Senate Special Committee on COVID-19

In a meeting with the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 on Friday, April 3, the Governor’s Chief of Staff Linda Chu Takayama reported that the State was granted Title 21 status, which provides federal funding for activation of the National Guard for COVID-19 mitigation, including support screening at airports. The status was granted for only 30 days, but the State hopes to gain an extension like other U.S. states have been given.

While the state’s mayors have written the White House about stopping all non-essential travel to Hawai‘i, Governor David Ige is reviewing the possibility that such travel would have unintended consequences. Chu Takayama said that, after analysis, the Governor will issue an opinion. President Trump has stated that he would consider a request to stop travel only if the Governor would agree to the policy.

After some comment from Special Committee members, Chu Takayama said she would speak with the Governor about requesting the military cancel upcoming RIMPAC meetings scheduled for June and July.

In other highlights, Department of Agriculture Chair Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser reported that, regarding federal emergency assistance for food needs, her department identified USDA programs that can provide emergency food assistance for commodities (in the amount of $1.5 million), the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program ($662,000) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ($2.1 million), all through USDA programs.

An additional assistance of $9.1 million is available for providers of specialty crops and for other producers that supply our food distribution system, such as livestock producers.

The USDA will be providing details through its website at www.usda.gov/coronavirus.

Concerning the state’s critical food and security infrastructure, the DOA has identified that food transportation and cold storage facilities are current weaknesses. The department is reaching out to organizations that may have excess cold storage capacity at this time.

Shimabukuro-Geiser also reported that the Hawaii Farm Bureau should get credit for implementing a drive-thru concept for farmers markets. She said that when the markets closed, farmers had already harvested and packed their products, ready for sale. The DOA worked with the Department of Public Safety to purchase some of the products, including frozen ulu and off-grade avocados. While farmers didn’t get the full price, they did get some revenue at an agreed price with state institutions.

The DOA is also working to open additional farmers markets while addressing social distancing concerns. The Hawaii Farm Bureau is also looking at drive-thru markets outside urban Honolulu.

Turning to the Department of Education, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said that the Board of Education approved a waiver of high school graduation requirements. The DOE will be releasing details about the requirements and guidance for students and parents today, April 6.

The department is also reviewing options to provide appropriate and safe graduation ceremonies for graduating seniors. Still, the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to allow traditional graduation ceremonies to occur.

Kishimoto also reported that the DOE and the Hawaii State Teachers Association have signed a letter of agreement outlining their partnership to provide distance learning for Hawai‘i students. Distance learning will likely be required beyond April 30, and the DOE is working on models and plans to continue its efficiency. The department has been in contact with other states regarding their own distance learning programs, and is also providing information to students and parents about additional distance learning resources and programs beyond what the DOE is providing to all students.

Students or parents who have questions or concerns are urged to call their school’s main number or the DOE main number. These phone numbers are being monitored, and voicemails will be returned.

Moloka‘i Reports 2nd Confirmed COVID-19 Case

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino, Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English (Hāna, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i and Kaho‘olawe) and Representative Lynn DeCoite (D-East Maui, Moloka‘i, Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe and Molokini) announced tonight that a second case of COVID-19 was confirmed today on Moloka‘i.

After the first case was confirmed earlier this week from an employee of the Friendly Market Center, Victorino, English, and DeCoite worked with the market’s owners to facilitate testing for all employees. The second positive test came out of that round of testing.

As a result, Friendly Market Center will remain closed until April 20 and employees are going into self-isolation.

Mayor Victorino said: “I have been notified that test results for a second individual have returned positive on Molokai. The individual is an employee of Friendly Market Center and is in self-isolation. I have been told that all employees at Friendly Market Center have immediately self-quarantined and that the store will be closed until April 20.

Unfortunately, this situation was a strong possibility after the first individual, who also is a store employee, tested positive on Molokai. House Rep. Lynn DeCoite, Sen. J. Kalani English and I have all been working with the local businesses to help sanitize their buildings and surrounding areas. I want the residents of Molokai to know that we will make sure that services and goods will continue to arrive to the island. My primary focus is to maintain essential supplies for Molokai and ensure their health and safety.

Senator English said: “By facilitating immediate testing on island and getting the results processed on O‘ahu the next day, we were able to identify a second positive case at the store and take steps to reduce further spread. The Friendly Market will close for 14 days. We are working to ensure the other stores in Kaunakakai have sufficient food and resources for island residents.”

Representative DeCoite said: “Tonight we were made aware of the second confirmed case on Molokaʻi. The person is another employee of Friendly Market. Now, more than ever it is important that we all comply with the County and State Stay at Home Orders. We know this is in the Moloka‘i Community. The way we kokua one another is to STAY AT HOME! It is ALL of our responsibility to STOP THE SPREAD by staying home! I know we are all scared and want information. For now, STAY AT HOME. Only send one person to get groceries and supplies for your household. Moloka‘i, we are strong, we are resilient and right now is our chance to show the rest of the state how we can come together by complying with all of the county and state recommendations to protect everyone in our community!”

County of Hawai‘i Recommends Wearing Cloth Face Coverings

Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim recommended Friday that people wear cloth face coverings when in public to protect others from the spread of COVID-19.  The recommendation reflects one made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is supported by the Mayors of the State of Hawaii.

The Mayor made clear that he did not recommend surgical or N-95 masks for general use, because supplies need to be reserved for first responders and health care providers. Homemade masks can be made from household items, old clothing or bandannas. For more information on how to make a face mask from fabric, please call Civil Defense at 935-0031.

“This would be voluntary, and it would be to protect each other from Coronavirus,” Mayor Kim said.  “As Dr. John Martell of Hilo Medical Center says, ‘Let’s all protect each other.’”

People can contract and spread the virus without showing symptoms, so it is wise to assume that you could be a carrier and so wearing a mask would protect other people, Mayor Kim said.  A homemade mask can block one’s own germs from infecting others.

The Mayor recommended that everyone wear a mask when leaving home and encountering others.

Let us all protect each other.

NHCH Offering More COVID-19 Screenings

Drive-up screening for COVID-19 at Queen’s North Hawai’i Community Hospital (QNHCH) will change to a three-times-week schedule, effective Monday, April 6. Screening is offered 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the main hospital campus in Waimea.

Physician’s orders are not required but individuals must have symptoms and complete a screening. Patients are asked to bring photo ID and insurance information, and to stay in their vehicle; screening and testing takes only a few minutes and is done while the patient stays in the vehicle.

Leaving one’s home to seek medical care is an essential and allowable activity under the State’s Stay-at-Home order.

For more information, visit coronavirus.gov or hawaiicovid19.com or call the Queen’s COVID-19 Information Line at 691-2619.

Hawai‘i Department of Health Announces 3rd COVID-19 Death

The Hawai‘i Department of Health is reporting the death of a third individual with COVID-19. The elderly O‘ahu resident had been hospitalized in critical condition on life support for several weeks after returning from travel to Washington state.

Spread of COVID-19 cases from 3/29/2020 to 4/2/2020

“We offer our sincere condolence to his family and friends at this difficult time,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson. “His death, the third death in Hawaii, is a tragic reminder of the virulent and contagious nature of this virus. We all must all work together to stop the spread of this deadly disease. Stay healthy by staying home, and if you must go out, always keep a six foot distance from others.”

Hawai‘i is under a State of Emergency and all residents must stay home except for essential activities until at least April 30, 2020. Essential activities include grocery shopping, getting takeout food, medicine and gasoline, taking care of the elderly, minors, and those with disabilities, and medical appointments. Those who need to walk their dogs, jog or exercise, should do so from home and practice social distancing. If you must go out, stay at least six feet from others at all times.

“You should act as though you have COVID-19 and everyone around you does too,” said Anderson.

Board Approves HIDOE’s Request to Modify Graduation & Requirements

The Board of Education (BOE) unanimously voted today to approve the Hawaii State Department of Education’s (HIDOE) request to modify high school graduation and commencement requirements under Board Policy 102-15 for the graduating class of 2020.

This approval means the Department will be able to move forward with finalizing a graduation plan that principals, complex area and state leadership have been developing over the past two weeks. The plan recommends utilizing grades from the third quarter, which ended March 13, to determine the final grade for student courses.

For students who do not meet proficiency, an extension or other options will be available, and further considerations are being made for students within block or multi-track schedules. The plan also includes additional considerations for academic honors including Advanced Placement (AP) assessments, International Baccalaureate (IB) assessments and dual credit as well as workforce opportunities like Career and Technical Education and military designations. 

The full plan will be released early next week pending a final review and approval by Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto.

“Adjusting to this global crisis has required school districts nationwide to rethink how education is delivered. We understand that students, families and our teachers want answers and we’re hoping that today’s decision will provide some closure as the Department will now be able to move forward with sharing and implementing plans for the remainder of the school year,” BOE Chairwoman Catherine Payne said. 

There are currently 11,183 seniors, with approximately 90% eligible to graduate on time based on third quarter grades, which are still being processed. The Department is starting to identify and categorize students into four bands to provide necessary supports. 

  • Band 1: Students who are on track and will receive a diploma based on their third quarter grades. Enrichment and learning opportunities will continue to ensure they are ready for post-secondary opportunities. 
  • Band 2: Students who are not meeting proficiency based on their third quarter grades. They are targeted for intervention and remediation to help them graduate on time. These individualized plans will be developed at the school level. 
  • Band 3: Students who are not meeting proficiency based on third quarter grades and are unable to achieve proficiency during the fourth quarter time period. Supports being proposed include providing summer school or e-School options.
  • Band 4: Students who were failing by the end of the first semester and are unable to achieve proficiency during the fourth quarter and with summer options. Administrators, counselors and teachers will work directly with these students and their families to develop a personalized plan. 

“Our priority from the start of this crisis has been our students, staff and their families. Developing this plan was a heavy lift by school and complex leaders and was done so with guidance from our federal, state and county partners,” added Kishimoto. “This waiver does not relax our standards. It provides the flexibility to ensure our eligible seniors graduate on time and smoothly transition to their chosen path after high school.”

The Department will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and make a decision by April 15 regarding commencement ceremonies. School, complex area and state teams have started discussing alternative means of celebration in the event traditional ceremonies cannot be held. 

The BOE also unanimously voted to approve the Department’s waiver request to cancel federally required statewide standardized assessments for the 2019-2020 school year. This includes Smarter Balanced Assessments for English language arts/literacy and mathematics, Hawaii State Science Assessments and Biology 1 end of course exams; Hawaii State Alternate Assessments; and the Kaiapuni Assessment Educational Outcomes (KĀʻEO). The public can submit comments until April 10 regarding this waiver through an online survey here. For more information as well as the anticipated impact, click here

School facilities have been closed to students since March 19, with traditional, in-school instruction temporarily discontinued until at least April 30. 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/or learning packets were distributed via email, school websites and some in-person. Work packets will not be graded, but many teachers are identifying unique ways to provide feedback to students. The Department has also stood up a resource for parents available atbit.ly/HIDOEVirtualLearningParentResource. HIDOE COVID-19 updates will continue to be posted on the Department’s website at hawaiipublicschools.org.

COVID-19: Inmate Population Relief Efforts

This is a Department of Public Safety (PSD) informational and procedural update for Thursday, April 2. There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the prisons or jails.  

Inmate Testing:

  • On 3/26/20 the individual listed under HCCC was sent to the hospital for treatment due to poor response to confirmed Influenza A.  The hospital conducted a COVID-19 test as a precaution on 3/26/20.  The test came back negative on 3/27/20. 
  • The test listed under OCCC was administered by a hospital prior to entry on 4/1/20 and is pending results. That individual is not exhibiting any symptoms.  OCCC staff executed their procedures to place the individual directly into medical isolation out of an abundance of caution until outside test results are obtained.

The facilities have longstanding outbreak management plans in place to quickly identify, isolate and treat communicable diseases.  They remain vigilant in their efforts to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19.

PSD adheres to the Department of Health medical guidance on testing for COVID-19, which currently recommends a testing panel be done to rule out other respiratory diseases before COVID-19 tests are considered.  

Inmate Population Relief Efforts 

PSD is well aware of the risks of over-population and crowding in our jails, especially during this pandemic. The Department has been following the petition from the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) to the Hawaii Supreme Court requesting release of certain inmates due to concerns of possible spread of COVID-19 to the prisons and jails. 

Today the court appointed a Special Master to assist all parties involved in a collaborative effort to find a resolution to the issues raised in the petition. We will await further guidance from the Special Master. The court also ordered intermittent sentence incarceration (those ordered into jail custody just on weekends) to be suspended until a judge states otherwise.  (Here is a link to the order)

The courts have already been collaborating with PSD to reduce the number of pre-trial jail detainees in custody.

  • The Department of Public Safety has been working with our Judicial partners to implement more video conferencing of arraignment and plea (A&P) proceedings and bail motions.  The video conferencing at OCCC, normally scheduled for two days a week, was successfully increased to three days a week (effective March 23) and as of March 30, is now expanded to five days a week for District and Circuit Court proceedings. 
  • From March 2 to April 2 there has been a substantial decrease in the jail population.  This is due to the huge efforts made by the Judiciary, our local police departments and PSD’s Intake Service Division as they work together to limit the number of people requiring admittance into the jails.  All decreases were pursuant to independently issued  court orders.

Hawaii Paroling Authority Update:

The Hawaii Paroling Authority’s suspension of all parole hearings is extended to the end of April. All hearings previously scheduled to take place during this time frame are being rescheduled.  All offenders who have already tentatively been granted release on parole will continue to be processed for release pursuant to the individual release requirements established by the parole board during their previous parole hearing. 

Signs have been posted outside for parolees and inside for HPA staff with the latest scheduling and office updates. An information hotline was established with recorded updates for the general public.  That number: (808) 253-1642.

Summary of previous update information issued through March:

  • PSD identified 52 inmates at the Halawa Correctional Facility and 5 at the Women’s Community Correctional Center who will be completing their full sentence between 3/28/20 – 6/30/20.  A list has been sent to the Hawaii Paroling Authority (HPA) for its consideration.   
  • All inmate work furlough passes and Hawaii Correctional Industries (HCI) outside community service work lines are suspended until further notice.
  • All non-essential programming is temporarily suspended.

(Correctional services such as: security, health care, food service, and facility operations/maintenance will continue as scheduled. Essential medical specialist transports, hospital and emergency transports will continue as needed.)

  • Enhanced screening is implemented at entry points, including no-touch temperature checks and verbal health screening questions.
  • Correctional facility entry suspensions include volunteers, non-essential program staff and personal inmate visitors.  (Attorneys and vendors/contractors providing inmate health and safety products and services are still allowed).
  • Increased inmate phone accessibility – Inmates are afforded an unlimited number of pre-paid and collect 15-minute personal phone calls. The personal call duration has been increased to allow up to 30 minutes per call. 
  • Free phone calls – GlobalTel Link (GTL) is providing two, free, five-minute-long calls per week for the next four weeks. 

Health care staff have had continuous, open dialogue with the Department of Health (DOH), and facility staff are being briefed on protocols as the situation changes day-by-day.  

Staff have been reminded to frequently wash their hands and refrain from touching their faces, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-recommended guidelines. Daily emails with the latest COVID-19 information, guidance and recommendations from the CDC and from DOH are being sent to all employees to keep everyone informed.

Sign up for PSD alerts and notifications through our AlertSense notification system by going to https://hawaiiPSD.myfreealerts.com

Residents can download the free AlertSense mobile app for Android and Apple devices, or text their zip code to 38276 to instantly sign up.

Hawaii House of Reps to Remain Closed Through April 30

House Speaker Scott K. Saiki today announced that the House of Representatives’ offices at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol willremain closed through April 30 to maintain consistency with Governor David Ige’s “stay at home” order directing all persons to remain and work from home except for those performing necessary functions. 

Upon learning that a member of the State Senate had tested positive for COVID-19 last month, all House offices and agencies were closed through April 5. Subsequently, the Governor issued his order which remains in effect through April 30. 

The Legislature is an essential part of government. However, Representatives may determine their own office hours and staffing needs based on their respective circumstances. Staff who remain at home should work from home. 

Hawaii residents can continue to contact their Representatives by phone, email or social media. Go to https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/members/legislators.aspx?chamber=H for contact information. 

Supreme Court Appoints Special Master

The Hawaii Supreme Court issued an order today addressing two pending petitions filed by the State Office of the Public Defender regarding the release or changes in the conditions of confinement of inmates amid concerns of a potential COVID-19 outbreak in Hawaii’s correctional centers and facilities.

Judge Daniel R. Foley

In its order, the court consolidated the two petitions and appointed retired Intermediate Court of Appeals (ICA) Judge Daniel R. Foley as Special Master to work with the parties in a collaborative and expeditious manner to address the issues raised in the petitions, and to recommend a resolution while protecting public health and safety.  An initial summary report from the Special Master is due by April 9, 2020.

Judge Foley is a respected jurist who served on the ICA from 2000 to 2016, handling appeals from Hawaii circuit, district, and family courts, and from administrative agencies. He chaired the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission and co-chaired the Hawaii Appellate Review Task Force and Committee on Equality and Access to the Courts.

Here is a link to the order.

COVID-19 Drive-Through Testing in Hilo

Premier Medical Group and Bay Clinic with the support of The County of Hawai`i COVID-19 Task Force 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 5, 2020 from 8 a.m. until 3 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.

COVID-19 Drive-Through Testing in Kona

Ali’i Health, with the support of Premier Medical Group and the County of Hawai`i COVID-19 Task Force, will be conducting drive-through screening and testing clinics in Kona. The twice weekly clinics will be held on Mondays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to noon, starting April 2, and continuing until further notice.

The Clinics will be held at the Keauhou Shopping Center.

These clinics will replace the drive through clinics that were held at the Old Kona Airport. No testing will be held this weekend at the Old Kona Airport.

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

To bypass the screening que patients can go to Pathways Telehealth by calling (808) 747-8321 option 5 to be screened and expedite testing.

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