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Hawaii Updates: Ige Rejects Caldwell Travel Ban; Activates National Guard

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Updated: 4/3/2020, 4:35 p.m.


Gov. David Ige says he won't join Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell's call to President Trump for a halt to all nonessential travel on commercial airplanes.


In explaining his decision, Ige said at a press conference today that he had spoken to the FAA and other federal officials and was informed that passengers can't be stopped from boarding airplanes to Hawaii.


He also said he believes his 14-day mandatory quarantine on arriving travelers is the most effective way to keep visitors away from the islands.


Caldwell had asked the governor to support his request after the arrival of three visitors who had no planned lodging and who was later quarantined at a homeless shelter. Maui Mayor Michael Victorino and Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami both endorsed the appeal to Trump. Big Island Mayor Harry Kim did not.


In other developments, Ige has partially activated the Hawaii National Guard in each county. The Guard members will help in supporting the movement of medical supplies, security and law enforcement as requested by the counties, said Brig. Gen. Moses Kaoiwi Jr., Joint Task Force commander.

He said between 54 and 57 guard members will be deployed to each county.

The governor also said the federal government has said no to the state's request to move inmates from state correctional centers to the Federal Detention Center to alleviate crowding. This comes given concerns about a possible virus outbreak in the jails. No inmate has tested positive for COVID-19.


Ige noted that the Hawaii Supreme Court has appointed a special master to consider releases as sought by the state public defender. The governor has said he wants the releases to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.


In other developments:

  • Ige said he will be sending a letter to Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of the U.S. Pacific  Command, asking that RIMPAC, the joint military exercises, be postponed until after the coronavirus crisis is over.
  • The governor said FEMA has directed the states to purchase their own personal protective gear, a change that is prompting the state to search for supplies at a time when items like masks have been in short supply.
  • Ken Hara, director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said there have been three arrests of individuals violating the state's quarantine order.
  • Hara said he will likely determine Monday which of the locations evaluated by the U.S. Amy Corps of Engineers should be designated as an alternative medical facility if hospitals are overwhelmed by a surge in coronavirus cases. The Hawaii Convention Center may be one.

Third death tied to coronavirus



State health officials confirmed a third coronavirus-related death in Hawai?i as the number of cases in Hawaii rose today by 34 to 319. The elderly O‘ahu resident had been hospitalized in critical condition on life support for several weeks after travel to Washington state, the health department said.

Health Director Bruce Anderson said the death is a reminder of the virulent and contagious nature of COVID-19.

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

Yesterday, the state announced the state's second death. Anderson said officials are still investigating the details of the individual who died.

Anderson said what the state knows is that she was an adult female living on O?ahu. She became critically ill and was hospitalized at the Queen’s Medical Center in West O?ahu, he said

She was then transferred to Queen’s in Honolulu where she died over the weekend.

Anderson said the health department is trying to track down family members and the woman’s travel history.

"We don?t know where she might have been exposed or her travel history. We?re hoping some of the people she lived with might be able to tell us a little more about where she was. Apparently she had an international passport and that?s about all we know about her at this time," he said.

Hawaii’s first coronavirus death was an elderly O?ahu man who had recently traveled to Las Vegas and may have been exposed to the virus there.

— HPR's Ku'uwehi Hiraishi


Where Hawaii stands


Hawaii's coronavirus case count jumped today to 319, according to the state health department's latest update. There are now three deaths attributed to the coronavirus.


The number of positive and presumptive positive cases represents an increase of 34 from yesterday. Oahu now has a total of 237 coronavirus cases, Maui 36, Kauai 13 and the Big Island 20. 


Eleven cases are pending county of diagnosis or residency and two residents were diagnosed out of state. Eighteen of the total cases have required hospitalization.



Earlier this week, the Hawaii Department of Health announced the first local fatality related to COVID-19. The Oahu man was described as elderly with underlying medical conditions.


Health Director Bruce Anderson said the death was consistent with coronavirus and that the man had traveled to Las Vegas, among the cities with high rates of infection.

The second death was a woman who lived on Oahu. She was hospitalized at the Queen's Medical Center in West Oahu, then transferred to Queen's in Honolulu, where she died over the weekend.

Hana, Maui, has seen its first case, said state Sen. J. Kalani English in a news release today. He said it is important that the coronavirus outbreak be slowed, noting East Maui has limited access to supplies and medical attention.

Maui County also said yesterday it was notified that a Molokai resident has tested positive. The adult male may have contracted COVID-19 while traveling and is currently hospitalized on Oahu. The county said the state Department of Health is investigating the case and any close contacts the man may have had.

The Honolulu Fire Department confirmed yesterday two firefighters at the Kalihi Uka station tested positive for the coronavirus (see more details below).

The University of Hawaii also announced one UH Maui employee and a graduate student at Manoa tested positive. The employee was on campus briefly on March 30 and practiced social distancing with a handful of workers that he came into contact with and did not have contact with any students.

The graduate student was last on campus on Saturday, March 14, the weekend of the start of the spring break.

Hawaii is seeing more COVID-19 cases of community spread and fewer that are travel-connnected as the restrictions on domestic and international visitors to the islands entered its second week.

Mayor urged residents to wear cloth masks and now CDC agrees

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell yesterday strongly recommended that residents wear cloth masks in public to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Today, the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention joined that call.

Shortly after the state’s second coronavirus-related death was reported yesterday, Caldwell likened the pandemic to a war.

He asked Oahu residents to do their part in the fight by following the city’s stay-at-home, work-from-home order.

While the Centers for Disease Control has issued statements discouraging the public’s use of masks, the federal guidance has been shifting – and Caldwell says cloth masks will provide some protection.

"It doesn’t give you 100% protection, but it does protect you in two ways. There are folks who are asymptomatic – you have COVID-19 but you don’t even know it, and you could be contagious. And when you cough or breathe on someone, you could transmit the virus," he said.


"So the mask protects that person that you’re around, but it also protects you too. For me, people criticize and say ‘Eh Mayor, I saw you on TV touch your face.’ With the mask, it’s going to make sure my hand doesn’t go in my mouth."

Caldwell advised against buying surgical or N-95 masks, saying those should only be used by doctors, nurses and first responders.

-- HPR's Casey Harlow



Asymptomatic firefighter may have exposed others


A Honolulu firefighter who went into work while he had no symptoms for the coronavirus may have infected at least one other employee.

Honolulu Fire Captain Manuel Neves confirmed yesterday that two firefighters at the Kalihi Uka station have tested positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Jill Omori, the city's infectious disease control officer, said when the first firefighter returned from vacation, he showed no symptoms.

"As we know, in the past few days, we had more and more information about asymptomatic people being able to transmit the virus.

"And so it's thought that even though the first firefighter went to work when he was asymptomatic, that he was probably within, you know, 24 to 48 hours before he started becoming symptomatic and so it was enough time for them to have exposure to the other firefighters in that same unit."

The department had earlier said in a news release that the first firefighter had not returned to work. Neves said he did not know why the release said that.

Omori said other firefighters in the station who are not showing symptoms have not been tested. She said those without symptoms don’t have enough of a "viral load" for an accurate reading. So the city is only testing those who are symptomatic.

The fire chief said the station has been sanitized and that all 43 fire stations will eventually be cleaned.

— HPR's Sandee Oshiro

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


Editor's note: We’d like to hear how you’re coping with the latest developments in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus. You can call our talkback line at 808-792-8217. Or e-mail us at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.


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