Ross Dress For Less Reopens to Huge Crowds

With retail stores being given the go-ahead to reopen here on the Big Island of Hawaii, Ross Dress for Less opened to huge crowds.

Shoppers literally lined up around the Hilo store around 11:30 a.m. to get in the door.

It was reported that social distancing was not being practiced, and no security could be seen at the time.

Mayor Kim Announces Reopening of Churches, Salons, Restaurants On June 1st Subject to Guidelines

Expanding on Governor Ige’s 8th Supplementary Proclamation concerning businesses and establishments that may reopen, Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim on Saturday issued an Emergency Rule that reopens places of worship, personal services such as hair salons, and restaurants effective June 1, 2020.

The Mayor’s COVID-19 Emergency Rule No. 5 declares that the following medium-risk operations are subject to all restrictions and social distancing requirements found within the 8th Supplementary Proclamation, State Department of Health Reopening Safe Practices, and CDC guidelines.  These operations must follow applicable CDC, industry and regulatory guidelines related to COVID-19 prior to opening:

1.  Places of worship.

Faith Based Worship in accordance with the CDC Interim Guidance for Administrators and Leaders of Community and Faith Based Organizations to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 or any updated CDC guidance.

2. Personal services.

• Salons and barber shops must also follow Exhibit I, Rules Relating to Safety Guidelines for Barbers and Beauty Operators, 8th Supplementary. 
• One-on-one services including, but not limited to: tutoring, music lessons, massage, yoga, Pilates, and personal training.

3. Restaurants.

• Including food courts, but not dedicated bars and nightclubs.
• In-dining service in accordance with CDC Interim Guidance for Restaurants and Bars, National Restaurant Association Guidelines, and any updated CDC guidance.

This Rule supersedes any conflicting County of Hawai‘i emergency rule provision.

“Pursuant to Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Section §127A-29, any person violating this Rule shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction, fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both,” Rule 5 states.  

To request no cost assistance in providing a safe and healthy business for employees and customers, contact the COVID Task Force on Education and Prevention at 935-0031. 

Governor Ige Orders Flags at Half-Staff on Memorial Day, and in Honor of Victims of Coronavirus Pandemic

At the direction of the President of the United States, Gov. David Ige has ordered that the United States flag and the Hawai‘i state flag will be flown at half-staff at the State Capitol and upon all state offices and agencies as well as the Hawai‘i National Guard in the State of Hawai‘i, immediately — until sunset on Sunday, May 24, 2020. This action is a mark of respect for the victims­­­­ of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In addition – Gov. Ige orders the United States flag and the Hawai‘i state flag be flown at half-staff at the State Capitol and upon all state offices and agencies as well as the Hawai‘i National Guard in the State of Hawai‘i, on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 2020 until noon.

The President proclaims Memorial Day a day of prayer for permanent peace and designates 11 a.m. as the hour in each locality that people might unite in prayer. He also asks that Americans observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3 p.m. local time Memorial Day.

The president’s proclamations:
Honoring the Victims of the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic
Memorial Day: Prayer for Peace

Hawaii Unemployment Skyrockets in April

The Hawai‘i State Department of Labor & Industrial Relations (DLIR) today announced that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April was 22.3 percent. The historic increase from the revised rate of 2.4 percent in March reflects the economic impact of COVID-19 in Hawai‘i. Statewide, 487,550 were employed and 139,900 unemployed in April for a total seasonally adjusted labor force of 627,450. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 14.7 percent in April, rising from 4.4 percent in March.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits increased by 13,900 or 1,173.0 percent compared to one year ago. Over-the-month initial claims also jumped by 1,250.5 percent as businesses shut down or reduced operations when the COVID-19 state of emergency mandated statewide closures and stay-at-home orders took effect.

Weekly or continued claims went up by 725 or 10.6 percent contrasted to a year ago. Continued claims swelled to 20.8 percent in April from March. Because these are consecutive filings, these numbers may remain elevated as initial claims become continued claims in the coming weeks and months.

The unemployment rate figures for the State of Hawai‘i and the U.S. in this release are seasonally adjusted, in accordance with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) methodology. The not seasonally adjusted rate for the State was 23.5 percent in April, compared to the revised rate of 2.3 percent in March.

Industry Payroll Employment (Establishment Survey)

In a separate measure of employment, total nonagricultural jobs decreased by 121,800 in April over March. Among the major industries, there were job losses in Leisure & Hospitality (-70,000), Trade, Transportation, & Utilities (-16,100), Professional & Business Services (-6,600), Other Services (-5,900), Educational & Health Services (-4,900), Manufacturing (-3,200), Financial Activities (-1,600), and Construction (-800). Employment in Information remained unchanged. Government employment went down by 12,700 jobs, primarily in the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii system. In comparison with April 2019, total nonfarm jobs are lower by 121,200, or -18.5 percent.

Technical Notes

Seasonal Adjustment

The seasonal fluctuations in the number of employed and unemployed persons reflect hiring and layoff patterns that accompany regular events such as the winter holiday season and the summer vacation season. These variations make it difficult to tell whether month-to-month changes in employment and unemployment are due to normal seasonal patterns or to changing economic conditions. Therefore, the BLS uses a statistical technique called seasonal adjustment to address these issues.

This technique uses the history of the labor force data and the job count data to identify the seasonal movements and to calculate the size and direction of these movements. A seasonal adjustment factor is then developed and applied to the estimates to eliminate the effects of regular seasonal fluctuations on the data. Seasonally adjusted statistical series enable more meaningful data comparisons between months or with an annual average.

Current Population (Household) Survey (CPS)

A survey conducted for employment status in the week that includes the 12th day of each month generates the unemployment rate statistics, which is a separate survey from the Establishment Survey that yields the industry job counts. The CPS survey contacts approximately 1,000 households in Hawai‘i to determine an individual’s current employment status. Employed persons consist of: 1) all persons who did any work for pay or profit during the survey reference week, 2) all persons who did at least 15 hours of unpaid work in a family-owned enterprise operated by someone in their household, and 3) all persons who were temporarily absent from their regular jobs, whether they were paid or not. Persons considered unemployed are ones that

do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior four weeks and are available for work. Temporarily laid off workers are counted as unemployed, whether they have engaged in a specific job seeking activity. Persons not in the labor force are those who are not classified as employed or unemployed during the survey reference week.

Benchmark Changes to Local Area Unemployment Statistics Data

Statewide and substate data for 2010-2019 have revised inputs and have been re-estimated to reflect revised population controls and model reestimation.

Change to Monthly Employment Estimates

This release incorporates revised job count figures for the seasonally adjusted series. The revised data reflects historical corrections applied to unadjusted supersector or sector level series dating back from 1993 through 2019. For years, analysts with the State DLIR’s Research and Statistics Office have developed monthly employment estimates for Hawai‘i and our metropolitan areas. These estimates were based on a monthly survey of Hawai‘i businesses and analysts’ knowledge about our local economies. Beginning with the production of preliminary estimates for March 2011, responsibility for the production of State and metropolitan area (MSA) estimates was transitioned from individual state agencies to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

For Hawai‘i, this means the transition of statewide, Honolulu and Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina MSA estimates for both the seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted areas are produced by BLS. State agencies will continue to provide the BLS with information on local events that may affect the estimates, such as strikes or large layoffs/hiring at businesses not covered by the survey and to disseminate and analyze the Current Employment Statistics (CES) estimates for local data users. BLS thinks this change is designed to improve the cost efficiency of the CES program and to reduce the potential bias in state and area estimates. A portion of the cost savings generated by this change is slated to be directed towards raising survey response rates in future years, which will decrease the level of statistical error in the CES estimates. Until then, state analysts feel this change could result in increased month-to-month variability for the industry employment numbers particularly for Hawai‘i’s counties and islands. BLS can be reached at (202) 691-6533 for any questions about these estimates.

The not seasonally adjusted job estimates for Hawaii County, Kauai County, Maui Island, Molokai, and Lanai are produced by the State of Hawaii Department of Labor & Industrial Relations.

Seasonally Adjusted Labor Force & Unemployment Estimates for Honolulu & Maui Co.

BLS publishes smoothed seasonally adjusted civilian labor force and unemployment estimates for all metropolitan areas, which includes the City and County of Honolulu and Maui County. BLS releases this data each month in the Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment news release. The schedule is available at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/metro.toc.htm.

Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization

The six alternative labor underutilization state measures based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) and compiled on a 4-quarter moving average basis defined:

U-1, persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
U-2, job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
U-3, total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (this is the definition used for the official unemployment rate);
U-4, total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers;
U-5, total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other marginally attached workers*, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers; and
U-6, total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.

* Individuals who want, and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey, for such reasons as child care or transportation problems, for example. Discouraged workers are a subset of the marginally attached.

Note that, the state unemployment rates (U-3) that are shown are derived directly from the CPS. As a result, these U-3 measures may differ from the official state unemployment rates for the latest 4-quarter period. The latter are estimates developed from statistical models that incorporate CPS estimates, as well as input data from other sources, such as state unemployment claims data.

Waipi’o Valley Closed to Public May 22-25

In anticipation of large crowd gatherings combined with the lack of resources to enforce COVID-19 safe physical distancing practices, the Hawaii County Department of Public Works announces that public access to Waipi‘o Valley is closed 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. starting Friday, May 22, through Monday, May 25.

PC: Hawaii County Department of Public Works

The closure and safety measures are due to numerous visitors to the area not conforming to COVID-19 social distancing and exceeding crowd size restrictions. Special duty officers and Waipi‘o Valley Rangers will be on site at the top of the road leading into the valley to ensure valley access is restricted to local traffic only (residents, land owners and farmers). Local traffic will be allowed to pass through a single vehicle at a time. 

The public is reminded that according to the latest amendment to Mayor Kim’s COVID-19 Emergency Rule No. 4, all County of Hawai‘i beach and shoreline parks, except Hakalau Beach Park and Kūhiō Kalaniana’ole Park, are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. subject to the following restrictions that seek to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

● No group shall exceed 10 people. 
● All persons using open beach and shoreline areas who are not part of the same household shall comply with state and county social distancing requirements. 
● All pavilions, playgrounds, sport courts and fields, indoor facilities, and similar areas where gatherings may occur in these beach parks shall remain closed. 

Valley tours are not authorized during this time. 

DPW apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause and thanks the community for their patience and understanding.

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

‘Resilience Hubs’ Distribute Protective Equipment Donations

To help protect essential workers who provide mental health services and their patients, the Hawai‘i Department of Health and the Behavioral Health and Homelessness Statewide Unified Response Group (BHHSURG) are coordinating the distribution of donated personal protective equipment (PPE) across the state. So far, more than 12,000 surgical masks, among other items, have been donated to one of three drop-off and distribution sites, or “resilience hubs,” on Oʻahu.

“We’d like to thank the community for their generous spirit and outpouring of Aloha. The donations allow our providers to safely ensure a continuity of care while keeping our staff and clients protected,” said Eddie Mersereau, Department of Health Deputy Director of Behavioral Health.

Donated PPE are being used by behavioral health and homelessness service providers working across the state, including at the Hawai‘i State Hospital and the Temporary Quarantine and Isolation Center on O‘ahu. A partnership with the Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute will begin establishing additional resilience hubs on Neighbor Islands to receive donated PPE.

Donations of homemade and unopened store-bought PPE such as masks, goggles, gloves and face shields continue to be welcomed. In addition, the resilience hubs are now accepting sanitation supplies including bleach, disinfecting wipes, paper towels, and toilet paper.

To date, the resilience hubs have received:

  • 12,153 Unused and Unopened Surgical Masks
  • 8,735 Pairs of Disposable Gloves
  • 7,069 N95 Masks
  • 288 Homemade Masks
  • 590 Unused Medical Gowns
  • 204 Homemade or Locally Manufactured Face Shields
  • 315 Pairs of Unused Eyewear or Goggles

Yet, thousands more are needed. The resilience hubs continue to welcome donations from the public. Three non-profits are hosting the resilience hubs: KROC Center in Kapolei, KEY Project in Kahalu‘u and YMCA in Kalihi. Items may be dropped off at the following times and locations:

KROC Center in Kapolei

91-3257 Kualakai Parkway, ʻEwa Beach, HI 96706

Drop-off hours: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., or by appointment

Phone: (808) 682-5505

KEY Project

47-200 Waiheʻe Road, Kāneʻohe, HI 96744

Drop-off hours: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., or by appointment

Phone: (808) 239-5777

Kalihi YMCA

1335 Kalihi St., Honolulu, HI 96819

Drop-off hours: 9 a.m. – 11 a.m., or by appointment

Phone: (808) 848-2494

Behavioral health and homelessness service providers may continue to submit requests for PPE using the Support & Supply form on the Behavioral Health and Homelessness Statewide Unified Response Group (BHHSURG) website. Walk-in requests for PPE are not being accepted at this time. Orders are being completed in phases and pick-ups are coordinated directly with providers.

The BHHSURG is a partnership with the Hawai‘i Department of Health, the Office of the Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness, the Hawai‘i Department of Human Services, the University of Hawaiʻi, and the Hawaiʻi Public Health Institute. Funds for the effort were donated from BlackSand Capital into the Hawai‘i Resilience Fund, with a match from the Hawai‘i Community Foundation. In addition, a significant donation was made by the Tzu Chi Foundation.

To learn more about this initiative or for other ways to provide community support during this time, please visit https://bhhsurg.hawaii.gov/.

HVNP Increases Community Access to Mauna Loa Road & Other Sites

Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is increasing community access. The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.

On Wednesday, May 20, 2020, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park reopened access to:  

• Mauna Loa Road to Kīpukapuaulu for vehicles, bicyclists and hikers, including Tree Molds. The picnic area will remain closed. 
• Mauna Loa Road past Kīpukapuaulu is open for hikers and bicyclists to Mauna Loa Overlook at 6,662 feet, but is closed to vehicles. 
• Footprints Trail from Highway 11 to the Ka‘ū Desert Trail and Mauna Iki Trail junction, including the Footprints shelter (1.9 miles one way). 
• Escape Road, for bicycling, horseback riding and hiking to the Mauna Ulu junction.

With public health in mind, all other areas in the park remain closed at this time. Commercial and special use permits continue to be suspended. 

“We have completed thorough risk assessments for the continued safety of our staff and the public, and while we are excited to increase access in areas of the park that allow for social distancing in an outdoor, open-air environment, we are urging each person to be safe to keep us all safe,” said Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Acting Superintendent Rhonda Loh. “If people cannot adhere to the latest health guidelines for their protection and ours, the park may have to close these areas again.” 

The health and safety of park users, our employees, volunteers, and partners continue to be paramount. At Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, our operational approach will be to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance, and will be regularly monitored. We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for all.  

While these areas are accessible for the public to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. Park users should follow local area health orders from the Governor of Hawai‘i, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding and avoid high-risk outdoor activities. 

The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We will continue to monitor all park functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19, and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.  

Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted on the park website www.nps.gov/hawaiivolcanoes and social media channels. Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus

Hawaii COVID-19 Task Force Releases Summary Report

The Hawai‘i COVID-19 Public Health Recovery Task Force released this summary report on Public Health during this pandemic.

Click to view report

“As representatives of Hawai‘i’s government, business, healthcare, and non-profit sectors, we understand the immediate health risks caused by COVID-19, as well as the long-term economic impacts it will cause. When we talk about reopening our state, we understand the risks of reopening too quickly, but also the negative effects of waiting too long.

That’s why we’ve all been working together as part of this public-private partnership, with experts in every sector, especially our health system partners, to get it right. The partnership’s recovery plan uses scientific evidence and draws on best practices from around the world.

This will inform us when to phase out some restrictions, what each sector must do to reopen safely, and how to prepare us for any new surge of infection.

This requires a unified strategy, and a solid infrastructure for screening, testing, tracing, and quarantine, as well as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other supplies required to keep our state safe.

We look forward to the discussion to finalize our plans to bring our economy back while ensuring protection of Hawai‘i’s public health.

We believe that working together under a strong, transparent, and unified strategy we can restore our island home to health and economic well-being.”

Committee to Meet on Quarantine Violators

The Hawaii Special Committee on COVID-19 will convene tomorrow, May 19, to assess and advise the Senate regarding the State of Hawaii’s COVID-19 plans and procedures to include, but not limited to:

1) Confirm the development of the state departmental plans and procedures;
2) Review and assess current state departmental plans and procedures;
3) Review and assess whether state departmental plans and procedures are properly and timely implemented to safeguard public health and safety; and
4) To communicate and disseminate information obtained therefrom.

At 2:30 p.m. the special committee will be meeting with Attorney General Clare Connors, Chief of the Honolulu Police Department Susan Ballard, a representative of the Facebook group Hawaiʻi Quarantine Kapu Breakers, and others to discuss the enforcement of the 14-day quarantine and stay at home orders.

Please note that there may be committee members or invited speakers participating remotely via video or teleconference.

The meeting will be available for live viewing on Olelo Channel 49 on Oahu and will go out live for pick up by neighbor island public access channels.

No public testimony will be accepted.

If you require special assistance, call 586-6800 or email your request to waysandmeans@capitol.hawaii.gov.

Social Media Posts Lead to Another Visitor Arrest

A 23-year-old man from New York was arrested this morning by special agents from the Department of the Attorney General for violation of the mandatory 14-day quarantine rule and unsworn falsification to authority.

Tarique Peters of the Bronx arrived on O‘ahu on Monday and posted numerous pictures of himself on Instagram. He allegedly left his hotel room the day he arrived and traveled many places using public transportation.

Authorities became aware of his social media posts from citizens who saw posts of him – on the beach with a surfboard, sunbathing, and walking around Waikiki at night. This morning agents were able to confirm with hotel personnel that had seen Peters leave his room and the premises on numerous occasions this week.

When he was arrested, a local man was with him and charges are pending against him. Peters was booked and his bail is set at $4,000.

Hawai‘i Attorney General Clare Connors said, “We appreciate the assistance of local people who spot flagrant violations of our emergency rules on various social media sites and report them to the appropriate authorities.”

Gov. Ige Watches National Guard Salute

For a few minutes today, Gov. David Ige took a break from the endless meetings, conference calls, and administrative work associated with the state’s management of the COVID-19 crisis, to join others around the state in recognizing the sacrifices of the healthcare community.

PC: COVID-19 Joint Information Center

From a State Capitol 5th floor vantage point, the governor watched as aircraft from the Hawai‘i National Guard and the 15th Wing Active Duty airmen from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam flew three separate flyovers over 17 different hospitals and medical centers around the state.

PC: COVID-19 Joint Information Center

It was an occasion to recognize not only military members, many of whom are supporting Hawai‘i’s coronavirus emergency response, but to pay tribute to the thousands of healthcare workers around the islands who are on the frontlines, battling this serious disease.

PC: COVID-19 Joint Information Center

“We see across the country, the ravage COVID-19 has inflicted on community after community. We know that Hawai‘i has fared much, much better than any other state in the country, and it really is due to the healthcare providers here. I’m proud of all their efforts,” said Gov. Ige.

PC: COVID-19 Joint Information Center

As the governor watched the trio of flyovers he reflected, “It’s such a fantastic tribute from people in uniform who risk their lives every single day to the healthcare workers who truly have become heroes in our community because of this pandemic.”

Order Allows Limited Use of Outdoor Sports Fields & Drive-In Services on Oahu

Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced that starting Friday, May 15, outdoor sport fields and courts will be open for one-on-one sports or exercise with limitations, as well as drive-in services (e.g., spiritual/religious services) that follow specific guidelines. 

Mayor Kirk Caldwell

These amendments to the Designated Business and Operations for O‘ahu are detailed in the Mayor’s Emergency Order No. 2020-11. The Order under the name “Ho‘oulu i Honolulu 2.0” or “Restore Honolulu 2.0”, incorporates all prior Emergency Orders, including the wearing of non-medical grade face coverings, social distancing requirements, and the limited opening of City parks. This Order is effective now through June 30.

The Ho‘oulu i Honolulu 2.0 Order allows public and private outdoor sport fields and courts on O‘ahu to re-open for one-on-one sports and exercise activities in which it is both possible and reasonable for individuals to maintain six feet of physical distance between each other at all times. Examples include, but are not limited to, singles tennis, singles pickle ball, yoga, and tai chi. Excluded are activities such as one-on-one or team basketball, in which it is neither possible nor reasonable to play while maintaining six feet of physical distance. For outdoor group exercise, the maximum number of participants allowed is ten and there shall be no social gatherings at the sport field or court complex. To view all of the guidelines for outdoor sport fields and court use, see Exhibit A of the attached Order. 

The Order also allows drive-in services starting Friday, May 15. These services may be conducted provided all persons attending the service drive up in an enclosed vehicle and remain in that same vehicle during the entire service. Vehicle windows, sunroofs and convertible tops must remain closed during the entire service, unless the vehicle is parked more than six feet away from any other vehicle. Each vehicle must also only be occupied by members of the same household or living unit and no food, beverages, equipment, or materials of any kind may be distributed or collected during the service. All of the guidelines for drive-in services can also be found in Exhibit A of Ho‘oulu i Honolulu 2.0. 

Violation of any of the Orders is punishable as a misdemeanor, with fines of up to $5,000, up to a year in jail, or both.

The City and County of Honolulu COVID-19 information call center remains open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on holidays. O‘ahu residents are encouraged to visit the website, oneoahu.org to get answers to frequently asked questions about Mayor Caldwell’s “Ho‘oulu i Honolulu Order 2.0”. If they do not find an answer to their questions on the site, residents can call the 768-CITY (2489) information hotline or email covidresponse@honolulu.gov.

DHHL, Aloha United Way Launch Beneficiary Rental Relief Program

A new program to provide rental relief for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) Applicant Waiting List beneficiaries will launch on May 11, 2020, in partnership with Aloha United Way (AUW). The program’s implementation was approved by the Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC) at its April meeting.

DHHL’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program will provide eligible beneficiaries with rental assistance using $7 million in Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant (NHHBG) funds. These funds were made available in accordance with the Native Hawaiian Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA) and other federal laws, including Public Law 115-141 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018. The Consolidated Appropriations Act allows NHHBG funds to be used to provide rental assistance to Native Hawaiian families both on and off Hawaiian Home Lands.  

“During this COVID-19 crisis, the Department has been working on programs to support our beneficiaries,” said HHC Chairman William J. Ailā, Jr. “We started by implementing mortgage relief programs for existing homesteaders and now we are pleased to launch this initiative with AUW to help applicants on our Waiting List. The Department is still on schedule to prepare 1,300 lots statewide over the next five years, and we hope this rental relief will keep applicant families on track to assume those lots once they are ready.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented financial ripple effect in our community,” said Norm Baker, interim AUW President and CEO. “Through data we understand the native Hawaiian population is one of our most vulnerable. The funds from the DHHL rental relief program administered by AUW will prevent native Hawaiian families from slipping into homelessness. We estimate more than 2,500 households will be saved from eviction.”

Eligible native Hawaiians on DHHL’s Applicant Waiting List who have experienced a loss of income or job as a result of COVID-19 may receive assistance for the payment of their security deposit and/or rent for up to six months.

DHHL COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program Criteria:

  • Must be native Hawaiian as defined by the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and on DHHL’s Waiting List as of Dec. 31, 2018. No new applications will be considered.
  • Must have experienced a reduction of income or loss of income/job as a result of COVID-19.
  • Must have a total household annual income that does not exceed 80 percent area median income, as defined by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  • Must be receiving assistance for the individual’s primary residence located in the State of Hawai`i. The maximum monthly rent for a household to pay may not exceed 30 percent of the family’s monthly adjusted income and the maximum fair market rent that will be considered, as established by HUD’s fair market guidelines.

To apply for the program, beneficiaries will be required to provide a series of documentation to indicate a loss of income or job as a result of COVID-19.

Documents Required for Income Verification:

  • Two months of the most recent pay stubs
  • Two years of the most recent Federal tax returns, including all forms, schedules, and W-2 forms
  • Two months of the most recent bank statements
  • Rental/lease documentation
  • Verification, if unemployed, that unemployment was caused by the COVID-19 situation
  • As applicable:
    • Most recent social security benefit letter, retirement statement, financial assistance statement, unemployment benefit statement, disability statement, and documentation verifying non-employment status.
    • Divorce decree, to document alimony or child support received.
  • Note: Affidavits will be required for any minor children that are not reflected on Federal tax returns, for any adult claiming to be unemployed and claiming to be exempt from filing Federal tax returns, or for other situations as applicable and upon request.

To apply for DHHL’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, call AUW at 2-1-1.

COVID-19: Updates for Hawaii Clinicians, Concerns Regarding Antibody Testing

The following letter was sent to Hawaii Senators from Dr. Steven Hankins, Lead Coordinator, Public Health and Medical Services Emergency Support Function (ESF-8) Hawaii Emergency Management Agency:

May 7, 2020

Dear Senators Donovan Dela Cruz, Jarrett Keohokalole, Michelle D. Kidani, Donna Mercado Kim, Sharon Moriwaki and Kurt Fevella

Thank you for your letter dated April 22, 2020, asking us to provide the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) communication plan, timing, and copies of the messages to be distributed related to concerns about COVID-19 testing in the private sector.

The State’s Joint Information Center (JIC) manages the interfaces with media and legislature to convey the Department of Health guidelines, recommendations and concerns regarding the use of information individuals might obtain from testing. Our subject matter experts have helped to craft guidance language for the Public Information Officers (PIOs) and the JIC (see below).

The Department of Health has already provided several communications for multiple audiences regarding testing. Dr. Sarah Park, the state epidemiologist, provided a “Grand Rounds” to providers on April 29, 2020 (see below), a legislative briefing on April 30, 2020 and released a medical advisory on May 1, 2020 (see below).

The Department of Health has also produced a general testing strategy for the state in response to COVID-19 (see below).

If there is additional information or communication you require, please let me know how we may provide it.

Sincerely,

Dr. Steven Hankins
Lead Coordinator
Public Health and Medical Services Emergency Support Function (ESF-8) Hawaii Emergency Management Agency

Basic Messaging for the Public and Concerns regarding antibody testing:

Most available antibody tests have not been sufficiently tested to understand how accurate or inaccurate they are. It will be a while before we know how to interpret them.

  • Some may be good and others junk.
  • Mistakes could be made by trusting these test too much before they are proven. One antibody test alone should not be used to make health care decisions.

There are a variety of tests from many companies. Each of these tests are different, so we cannot assume one test will be as accurate as another.

  • Tests from mainland China that have not been examined by the FDA should be used with caution (if at all).
  • New tests should be checked out carefully to understand what the results actually mean. A positive antibody test means the person has been exposed to a coronavirus, but it doesn’t tell you much about the timingIt means he/she was exposed 10 or more days ago.
  • It probably takes at least 10 days after exposure for antibodies to develop, but could takeseveral weeks to turn positive.
  • We do not yet know how long these antibodies stay around.
  • We do not yet know if these antibodies protect you from re-infection.
  • Different antibody tests may measure different antibodies and give varying results. Some antibody tests may turn positive even if the person was not exposed to the COVID- 19 virus.
  • There are many other coronaviruses besides the COVID-19 virus that cause respiratory symptoms in humans.
  • Other coronaviruses may cause the COVID-19 tests to be falsely positive. Coronaviruses havecommon parts so sometimes antibodies may recognize those parts instead of what’s unique to the virus of concern. This needs to be determined.
  • One positive antibody test does not mean a person is free of infection, and he/she could still be infectious.
  • Some infected patients will still be infectious for several days after their antibody test turns positive.
  • We need more data but a person may have been infectious perhaps 2-4 days after antibodies appeared based on one study. A positive antibody test does not guarantee immunity.

It is still unknown what degree of protection from future infection exists for recovered individuals and how long such protection might last.

  • Someone with a negative antibody test may still be infectious, because immunity can take 10 or more days to develop.
  • Single antibody tests cannot be used by itself to diagnose COVID-19 infection. The diagnosis is made by a clinician looking at multiple factors.
  • At present we do not have enough information to be able to use a single antibody test to decide who could return to work.
  • It may be possible that two positive tests 1 week apart would indicate that a person is non- infectious.

In the future there may be better antibody tests that would indicate someone is non-infectious

Limits and Concerns regarding PCR testing:

  • A positive PCR test with symptoms is a good indication the person has COVID-19. The person is infectious and needs to isolate.
  • Persons with symptoms are presumed to be infectious to others.
  • A positive PCR test without symptoms may mean the person has a mild infection, and may be able to spread it to others. These individuals should isolate.
  • A positive PCR test does not necessarily mean the person is still infectious to others.
  • The PCR test may stay positive for days to weeks after a person is no longer infectious. This is because the test can detect small fragments left over from dead viruses.
  • A negative test after recovering from illness is probably good evidence the person is no longer infectious.
  • A negative PCR test could be due to a poorly collected specimen—the swab must collect enough cells from the back portion of the nose and throat to detect the virus.
  • A negative PCR test could be seen early in infection.
  • One could have a negative PCR test during the early stages of infection, only to have a positivetest a day or two later.
  • There is a period of about a couple days between exposure and development of a positive test.

Click here to view all the documents: RESPONSE HIEMA (Email of April 22, 2020)

Inmates Continue to be Released

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the prisons or jails.

Jail Population Report

From March 2 to May 8 there has been a substantial reduction in the jail population across the state.

These reductions are due to the huge, up-front diversion efforts made by county police departments, Public Safety Division’s (PSD) Intake Services Center Division and the State Judiciary.

More recent, additional reductions are due to the collaborative efforts of the state public defender’s office, county prosecutors, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court and the Supreme Court appointed Special Master, Judge Dan Foley.

Inmate Testing

Currently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the prisons or jails. The latest Inmate Testing Report can be found on our PSD COVID-19 information and resources webpage.

For more information on PSD’s response to COVID-19 and information detailing the efforts we have made to safeguard the inmates, staff and public, visit PSD’s webpage.

DOH: No New Cases of COVID-19 Likely Just a Lull

Today is the first day since mid-March that the Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) has not reported any new cases. While this is good news, it does not mean, in any way, the end of the COVID-19 crisis.

Hawai‘i State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park

Hawai‘i State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said, “We have seen a steady decline in new cases over the past several weeks, although today we’re at zero, we want to maintain these declines. As businesses reopen, as people become more active and travel more freely, we will inevitably see an increase in cases.” Health experts indicate that while Hawai‘i is fortunate to have this pause, it should be used to reassess response capacity, preparedness plans, and to ensure the state is ready for a second and potentially larger wave of the disease.

Of particular concern now, is Hawai‘i residents resuming travel to the mainland, particularly to COVID-19 hotspots. Dr. Park explained, “Travel continues to pose a risk for the spread and reintroduction of the coronavirus. This risk is not just posed by visitors. Residents can actually pose a greater risk by unknowingly infecting others. When people travel for entirely appropriate and necessary reasons (work, healthcare, significant family events) they can inadvertently bring the infection home.” Park and other health experts say this is why it is critically important for everyone (visitors and residents) to observe the mandatory traveler 14-day self-quarantine. It protects our community.

The State is again emphasizing that Hawai‘i is not a “me first” culture, but a culture of “we.” This philosophy is what’s allowed control of the COVID-19 pandemic up until this point. Hawai‘i residents particularly respect our kupuna and others who may be more susceptible to this serious disease.

For that reason, DOH says the strongest defense we have against future, rapid increases in COVID-19 cases is dependent on everyone’s consistent observation of safe practices.

  • Wear a mask when you are outside your home.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Keep a distance of 6 feet from non-household members.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces often.
  • And stay at home when you are sick.

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.

CURRENT SERVICE TO HAWAII

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

FLIGHTS GRANTED DOT APPROVAL FOR SUSPENSION

CURRENT DEMAND FOR AIR TRAVEL TO HAWAII

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.

AIRLINE COMMUNICATIONS TO PASSENGERS

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

AIRLINE SCHEDULING PRACTICES

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.

AIRLINE SCHEDULING PRACTICES

Legislation to Provide Emergency Cash Assistance to Low-Income Families & Individuals

U.S. Senators Brian Schatz, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) today announced legislation that would establish a new $10 billion Coronavirus Emergency Assistance Grant program to help low-income families and individuals experiencing significant financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Families who were already struggling to get by before this crisis have been hit hard by this pandemic, and they need help,” said Sen. Schatz.“Our bill will give vulnerable families additional resources to pay their bills and make ends meet, providing some much-needed help to those who need it most.”

The Pandemic TANF Assistance Act appropriates $10 billion for Coronavirus Emergency Assistance Grants that would allow states, territories and tribes to provide eligible families short-term cash, non-cash and in-kind assistance to help address their basic needs, prevent household emergencies like foreclosure, forfeiture, and termination of utilities, and avoid children needing to be removed from their homes.

The Coronavirus Emergency Assistance Grant funds may also be used for subsidized employment for jobs that can be performed remotely or essential work as long as individuals have access to personal protective equipment. When federal and state emergency declarations are lifted, the funds may be used for a broader array of subsidized employment. Benefits are limited to individuals negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty line.

The Pandemic TANF Assistance Act would also temporarily waive work requirements and other barriers to assistance for current Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program beneficiaries who may be unable to complete program work requirements due to state economic closures, social distancing measures, illness or caring for a loved one. 

Big Island COVID-19 Antibody Testing Friday, Saturday & Monday

Premier Medical Group and the County of Hawai‘i are offering antibody testing at their Waimea, North Kohala and Hilo testing clinics. Antibody testing can determine if you have previously had COVID-19. Drive-through antibody testing is available nowhere else in the state. 

The next clinics that will offer antibody testing are:

• Waimea District Park — Friday, May 8 from 9 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
• North Kohala (Kamehameha Park) — Saturday, May 9 from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
• Hilo (behind the Civic) — Monday, May 11 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Antibody testing will be offered only to those previously identified as having had the Coronavirus, or those with high risk exposures, including healthcare workers, first responders, and family members or those with close contact to known positives. A simple blood draw detects the presence of SARS-Cov2 IgG antibodies in your system. 

Note: there is a $43 out-of-pocket cost to people whose medical insurance plans do not cover the antibody test. Call your insurance provider to find out if you’re covered.

People who visit the screening clinic will be asked to show photo ID.  Additionally, people are requested to bring their own pen.

For further information, please call Premier Medical Group at 808-304-9745 or Hawai‘i County Civil Defense at 935-0031.

Hawai‘i Health Centers to Receive $3.8 Million to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Contact Tracing

 U.S. Senator Brian Schatz announced that 14 health centers across Hawai‘i will receive $3.8 million to expand COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

“Ramping up testing is critical to reopening our economy,” said Sen. Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This new federal funding will give our local health centers additional resources to test more people for COVID-19, conduct contact tracing, and help stop the spread in our state.”

The new federal funding, which was part of the latest relief package passed by Congress, will be used by health centers to expand the range of testing and testing-related activities to best address the needs of local communities, including the purchase of personal protective equipment, training for staff, procurement and administration of tests, laboratory services, notifying identified contacts of infected health center patients of their exposure to COVID-19, and the expansion of walk-up or drive-up testing capabilities.

  • Bay Clinic on Hawai‘i Island will receive $418,489
  • Community Clinic of Maui will receive $283,774
  • Hamakua Health Center on Hawai‘i Island will receive $182,389
  • Hana Community Health Center on Maui will receive $126,904
  • Hoola Lahui Hawai‘i on Kauai will receive $153,049
  • Kalihi Palama Health Center on Oahu will receive $434,254
  • Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services on Oahu will receive $270,199
  • Koolauloa Community Health and Wellness Center on Oahu will receive $185,809
  • Lanai Community Health Center will receive $130,714
  • Molokai Ohana Health Care will receive $134,119
  • Waianae District Comprehensive Health on Oahu will receive $678,814
  • Waikiki Health on Oahu will receive $236,704
  • Waimanalo Health Center on Oahu will receive $171,844
  • West Hawai‘i Community Health Center on Hawai‘i Island will receive $356,314