Hawaii Updates: Two More Deaths; Visitors Arrested In Quarantine Case; Gov: Not Ready For Reopening
Updated: 4/21/2020, 12:09 p.m.
Two more coronavirus-related deaths have been reported, one tied to the Maui Memorial Medical Center cluster, the state Department of Health said today. That brings the total number of deaths to 12 since tracking began in late February. The case count today is at 586, up 2.
Both deaths involve men who were 65 years old or older. One, an Oahu man with underlying health conditions, was hospitalized in late March. Although he appeared to get better and was discharged, his health declined and he passed away at home yesterday.
The Maui case now brings to two the number of deaths related to Maui Memorial. In the latest case, the man had underlying health conditions and had been at the hospital since late last year.
"This person’s death is considered related to the MMMC cluster, which as of yesterday had 36 staff and 20 patients under investigation as potentially associated with the cluster," the department said in a news release.
Hawaii's 10th death was also a patient at Maui Memorial. The heath department said he was an adult male visitor from Washington state between 40 to 59 years old. He was hospitalized for an extended period in serious condition at the hospital.
He had no previous medical conditions and his exposure may have been travel-related.
Oahu case count is now 385, Maui County 110, Hawaii Island 64, and Kauai 21. No cases are pending determination of county and six were diagnosed out of state.
Officials say two visitors arrested after violating quarantine order
Two visitors, a woman from Las Vegas and a man from Australia, were arrested today for violating the mandatory quarantine order during the current emergency, state officials said.
Kimberly Kim Tien, 34, and Edwin Htun, were reported by a LayLow Waikiki Hotel manager after notified by an "irate" citizen that Tien had posted on Instagram showing she was out of her hotel room. The emergency order requires all arriving tourists and returning residents to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Authorities notified the Australian embassy of Htun's arrest, the state said in a news release.
Special agents with the state attorney general interviewed the hotel staff and received records showing the two repeatedly left their hotel room from their arrival April 15 through yesterday.
After the two were arrested, they were booked and returned to their hotel to finish their quarantine period.
Visitors continue to arrive in the islands despite the mandatory quarantine order.
According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, 111 visitors arrived yesterday, part of 444 arrivals to the state. Others included 151 returning residents, 89 crew members, 38 intended residents such as military personnel and 55 transiting travelers.
Gov: Hawaii Not Yet Ready To Reopen
When can Hawaii safely return to normal? That's the question uppermost on the minds of government officials and community leaders as they begin drafting plans on reopening the state.
During a press conference yesterday, Gov. David Ige said Hawaii isn’t quite ready for a reopening. He suggested that his criteria for a phased reopening may go beyond the state guidelines issued by President Trump.
The state appears to have met one of Trump’s guidelines with its downward trajectory of new cases over a 14-day period. But Ige says he is evaluating everything – including enforcement of the mandatory quarantine on new arrivals.
Health Director Bruce Anderson said when the state does reopen, one requirement would be to continue with a system that can trace the contacts of those with COVID-19.
"This is not a disease that’s likely to go away. When we open up our airports and other ports, it’s very likely we’re going to see travelers continuing to come to Hawaii, regardless of the screening programs we have," he said. "Very likely, we’re going to see cases pop up now and then, and we’re going to need to have the infrastructure to be able to identify those cases quickly, and identify those contacts, isolate, and quarantine those individuals quickly so it doesn’t spread."
Anderson says the health department has 30 volunteers helping with contact tracing – but will need more people to keep up with cases.
He says while confirmed cases remain low in the state – health officials want to ensure it remains that way.
Yesterday's Hawaii Updates: Unemployment fund running out, federal loan may be sought; Cases at 584
Deciding which businesses can reopen first depends on whether it can be done while safeguarding against the coronavirus, said the head of the governor’s economic recovery committee.
Alan Oshima, former Hawaiian Electric CEO, said at the press conference that businesses can expect to meet certain requirements when Hawaii reopens in stages.
“Shutting down was, although painful, relatively easy. Opening up may be more difficult depending on the business -- and the new rules, what the new norms are going to be," he said. "I’m sure people have gone to their pharmacies and noticed the plexiglass shields at the point of sales. How prevalent is that going to be as a requirement for every business? Restaurants -- what are the spacing requirements? These are all in the stages of development.”
The economic recovery committee has created a webpage where it has posted a framework for planning the reopening of the state and building future resiliency.
--HPR's Casey Harlow and Sandee Oshiro
Courts receive motions for detainee release
State court motions have been filed for the potential release of nearly 600 people from Hawai?i’s overcrowded jails and prisons in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prosecutors have until Thursday to object to the motions if they believe any of the releases poses a significant risk to the public.
The motions are part of a coordinated effort by the state public defender’s office, public safety department, and the courts to alleviate overcrowding in correctional facilities statewide.
Public defense attorney Jacquie Esser says if detainees are released, a major challenge will be helping them transition back into mainstream society.
"This has always been an issue but its highlighted more during this time of the pandemic when it's harder to get jobs, its harder to get housing, you know all of these things," she said.
"People go into our facilities without drivers license, without education, you know, without housing lined-up. Even just simple things of not being able to afford a phone is going to cause you to violate the terms of your release and have you rearrested. Also if you don’t have a structure to go to you’re more likely to be approached by law enforcement and rearrested."
The ultimate decision on release will be made by presiding judges in each case who may also impose conditions on a release.
The deadline for a decision is April 28.
--HPR's Ku‘uwehi Hiraishi
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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