First Hawaii COVID-19 Death Possibly Travel-Related, Minor Tests Positive

The first death from COVID-19 has been confirmed as an older adult O‘ahu resident who had recently traveled from Las Vegas. DOH reports 34 new COVID-19 cases today — one is a minor and 33 are adults. The majority of cases are residents (26), one (1) is a visitor and seven (7) are unknown and pending investigation. There are now a total of 258 presumptive or confirmed cases in the state.

Community Surveillance testing has conducted roughly 380 tests to date on representative samples from every island with one (1) positive result on O‘ahu, reinforcing there is limited and localized community spread on O‘ahu.

Today, President Trump granted a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Hawai‘i triggering the release of Federal funds to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration is in effect from Jan. 20, 2020 and is continuing. 

The disaster declaration provides assistance to individuals and households and for emergency work and repair or replacement of disaster-damaged facilities. The measure provides direct federal assistance of 75% of the total cost.

President Trump Approves Hawaii Disaster Declaration

Today, President Donald J. Trump declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Hawaii and ordered Federal assistance to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic beginning on January 20, 2020, and continuing.

Official portrait of President Donald J. Trump, Friday, October 6, 2017. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

The President’s action makes Federal funding available to State and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance, for all areas in the State of Hawaii impacted by COVID-19.

Pete Gaynor, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named Robert J. Fenton as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected areas.

Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the State and warranted by the results of further assessments.

Letter to Trump: Stop Non-Essential Travel to Hawaii

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is asking other Hawaii county mayors as well as Governor Ige to sign a letter to President Trump asking to stop all non-essential travel into Hawaii until the end of April.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority reports that the number of passengers flying into Hawaii continues to drop.

Yesterday, 681 people arrived in Hawaii on the fifth day of the state’s 14-day mandatory self-quarantine for all incoming passengers. Of that number, 121 people were visitors.

Most of the passengers were either returning residents or crew members. In comparison, during this same time last year, more than 30,000 passengers arrived in Hawaii daily, including residents and visitors.

This table shows the number of people who arrived by air from out of state on March 30th.

Hawaii Rep. Beth Fukumoto Responds to Hate Letter, White Nationalism and Issues a Warning to the GOP

After receiving a letter from a self-proclaimed Trump supporter attacking her Japanese ancestry and her support for “illegals, black thugs, Muslims and bombs, and gays,” Rep. Beth Fukumoto released the following statement. Fukumoto, who left the Republican Party earlier this year after being removed from leadership over her participation in the Hawaii Women’s March, has spoken extensively on her experiences of racism and race politics in the GOP.

Rep. Beth Fukumoto

“This letter isn’t the first to come across my desk, but it’s so painfully relevant to everything that has unfolded in America these last few days that I believed it needed to be addressed. This individual and their list of everything they hate was inspired by President Trump and his statements.

“I worked to fight racist rhetoric when I was a member of the Republican Party, and I left when I realized I couldn’t win that fight from within. The white nationalist undercurrent of the Presidential campaign stretched far beyond Donald Trump. His success is the result of white nationalism left unchecked within the GOP for years.

“Today, every elected official in the GOP needs to make a choice. Be vocal, public and specific in your opposition to prejudice everywhere – especially in the Oval Office. Or, be complicit and continue to work peacefully with a party that has gained electoral wins by building coalitions of mistrust and hate.”

Senators Schatz, Whitehouse, Warren and Markey Call Out Climate Denial Materials Sent to Teachers In Hawaii and Across the Country

U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) wrote to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos yesterday to highlight misleading science materials sent by the Heartland Institute, a group with a long record of climate denial, to more than 300,000 public school science teachers in Hawai‘i and across the country.

Heartland’s 11-minute DVD and 135-page book, which are made to look like typical curriculum materials for science teachers, are explicitly designed to call into question the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. Among other claims, they push teachers to “consider the possibility” that climate science is not settled and “students would be better served by letting them know a vibrant debate is taking place among scientists.”

“The Heartland Institute has disseminated ‘alternative facts’ and fake science at the behest of its industry funders for decades,” the senators wrote. “In the 1990s, it teamed up with Phillip Morris to challenge facts about the health risks of tobacco. The tobacco industry’s conduct was found to be fraudulent. Using the same strategies, with funding from the Koch family foundations, ExxonMobil, and other fossil fuel interests, the Heartland Institute now seeks to undermine the scientific consensus about climate change.”

The senators ask whether DeVos and her staff have had any contact with the Heartland Institute on science education. They also inquire whether the Department is working with Heartland in any capacity. DeVos has a history of donating to industry-funded front groups and just last week applauded President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“It is our sincere hope that neither White House staff nor Department of Education officials have turned to the Heartland Institute on the issues of climate change and climate science, or had any roll in this mailing to educators,” wrote the senators. “At your nomination hearing, you were asked whether you would stand on the side of students or with the political entities trying to force junk science into schools. You responded that you ‘support the teaching of great science and especially science that allows students to exercise critical thinking and to really discover and examine in new ways.’ We agree that ‘great science’ and critical thinking are cornerstones of a high-quality education, but that is not achieved with Heartland’s industry-funded and possibly fraudulent materials.”

Click to read full letter

Hawaii Representative Wants to Switch Political Parties Because of Presidents Treatment of Women and Minorities

Rep. Beth Fukumoto

In the last couple years, I’ve watched leaders in the Republican Party become less and less tolerant of diverse opinions and dissenting voices. I am under constant scrutiny for working across the aisle to pass common sense legislation that will benefit my district and the people of Hawaii.

Today, I’m facing demands for my resignation from leadership and possible censure because I raised concerns about our President’s treatment of women and minorities. I’ve been asked by both my party and my caucus to commit to not criticizing the President for the remainder of his term and to take a more partisan approach to working in the Legislature. That is not a commitment I can make. As a representative of my community, it is my job to hold leaders accountable and to work with anyone, regardless of party, to make Hawaii a better place for our families.

This morning, I sent a letter to my district explaining that I would like to leave the Republican Party and seek membership in the Democratic Party. When I was re-elected in November, I was elected as a Republican, and I want to honor my community’s choice by consulting them before any decision is made. As I articulated in my letter, I encourage my constituents to contact me with input and provide feedback. I was elected by the people of Mililani, and I am here to represent them.

Rep. Beth Fukumoto