Hawaii Updates: Caldwell Mandates Masks; 1 McDonald's Worker Infects 13; Cases At 517
Updated: 4/14/2020, 7:07 p.m.
Starting next Monday, O?ahu residents will be required to cover their face when entering an essential business or using public transportation. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell amended the city's stay-at-home order today to include that mandate.
Caldwell says to further flatten the COVID-19 curve, residents will need to wear some protection to aid in getting or spreading the virus. Face masks, scarves or bandanas are all acceptable.
There are exceptions to the new mandate, such as conducting business in a bank.
"Usually people who are wearing masks, going into a bank, it's not a good outcome," Caldwell said. "And no mask is required if you go up to an ATM machine, because sometimes people are held up at ATM machines. Or someone has a mask, other facial covering, and they've actually stolen someone's ATM card, and they're trying to withdraw money."
There are also exceptions for those with pre-existing medical conditions, such as asthma or other pulmonary problems, where wearing a mask can affect one's breathing.
Caldwell says enforcement of the new mandate will mostly fall on businesses. He says police officers, if they get involved, will give a warning before issuing a citation. But he hopes everyone will comply with the new order.
--HPR's Casey Harlow
Health director: One Kona McDonald's worker spread virus to 13 others
State Health Director Bruce Anderson says a McDonald's worker in Kona with COVID-19 infected over a dozen co-workers and family members.
Anderson said the case shows how the virus can spread widely from just one person, he told state senators today.
“Let me give you one example because you’ll hear about it on the news tonight. We had a McDonald's employee who got sick — he inadvertently I’m sure — infected six other employees. So there were seven employees infected. And then this one individual lived in an extended household with lots of people in it and seven other people in the household became sick.
"So, you know, one person can really create a significant problem. These are confirmed cases, those aren't just contacts. So they're people who got sick and all are in isolation and being restricted now in activities.”
McDonald's owner and operator Patrick Lim said in a statement that as soon as the company learned about workers at the Kona Commons and McDonald’s of Walmart Kona locations testing positive for the coronavirus, they closed and conducted a thorough sanitation.
"Additionally, we have also added protective barriers to limit contact in our restaurants. We identified and reached out to all restaurant staff who had been in close contact with the employees who contracted the virus and advised they self-quarantine for 14 days," he said. Universal testing of empoyees at both locations have been offered under guidance from the health department, he added.
Anderson said he does not think customers were infected because of the restaurants' social distancing practices.
Anderson acknowledged that the health department is just barely keeping up with contact tracing of those who test positive.
Contact tracing is the process of reaching out to those who had contacts with a person found with COVID-19. They are tested and quarantined if needed.
He said just today the department submitted a request for 30 to 50 new staff members to track contacts.
The department has been running its contact tracing with 30 volunteers and existing staff.
--HPR's Sandee Oshiro and Ashley Mizuo
Where Hawaii stands
The state's confirmed and presumed positive coronavirus cases number 517, up 13 from the previous day, according to the state's latest daily update. The death count stands at nine.
Oahu's case count is now 358, Maui's 86, Hawaii County's 41, Kauai' County's 21 and Molokai's 2. Three cases are pending determination of county and six were diagnosed out of state.
Travel-related cases have dropped significantly and community-associated cases have been slowly rising.
The ninth death was a woman 65 or older who had underlying medical conditions. She had tested positive for the coronavirus and was hospitalized on Oahu, the health department said.
Food Bank: Needs hit historic highs
The head of the Hawaii Food Bank says it's facing unprecedented demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. The nonprofit saw a 30 percent increase in need in the first week and a half of the crisis.
That is likely to grow as the pandemic continues – and more people file for unemployment.
Food Bank CEO Ron Mizutani says the organization is now distributing between 70,000 to 90,000 pounds of food compared to the typical 40,000 to 60,000 pounds.
"If you look back at Hawaii Food Bank’s response to [Hurricane] Iniki in 1992, the Hawaii Food Bank responded with a million pounds of food to Kauai. What we’re seeing now is 2 million pounds of food in just a month," Mizutani said. "I wasn’t here in 2008, but I can tell you for a fact that based on the some of the numbers that I was able to track down, and do some research on – we have never, as an organization, purchased this amount of food."
Mizutani says the needs have been extensive. "This is affecting not just the one in eight that we currently serve every single day – you’re talking about more than 200,000 people who have filed for unemployment," he said.
Mizutani expects to spend half a million dollars this month to meet demand.
Information on how to donate to the Food Bank can be found on its website.
--HPR's Casey Harlow
Hawaii Explores Deterring Tourists By Limiting Reservations
Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Incident Commander Kenneth Hara said yesterday that Gov. David Ige’s administration is exploring further stemming the flow of visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic by disrupting their ability to make hotel reservations.
Hara told a state House committee for the coronavirus that federal law won’t allow Hawaii to restrict travelers coming into the state.
“To try to circumvent that, we’re looking at possibly restricting their ability to make reservations with lodging,” Hara said, adding he was working with the state attorney general on the issue. The committee met through video conference, which was broadcast online and on television.
Ige last month urged visitors to postpone their Hawaii travel plans for at least 30 days. Shortly after, he issued an emergency order requiring all travelers landing in Hawaii to quarantine themselves for 14 days. The number of travelers dropped sharply after these policies were announced, but visitors have still been coming.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority said 91 visitors arrived in the state on Sunday and 89 the day before.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said his city will be asking the state how many travelers are staying at bed-and-breakfasts or vacation rentals. He said the information it receives may prompt the city to take further action.
Caldwell said the city declared such businesses nonessential and they shouldn't be operating while Honolulu battles the pandemic.
“At the end of the day, we really don’t want to have any vacationers coming here for the duration of the stay-at-home, work-at-home orders and Governor Ige’s 14-day quarantine," Caldwell said.
Hawaii recorded five more cases of the coronavirus on Monday, bringing the state’s total to 504.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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