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Hawaii Updates: UH Resuming In-Person Classes; Cases Up 1; Oahu Stores Could Reopen In Mid-May

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Updated: 5/4/2020, 12:53 p.m

The University of Hawaii plans to resume in-person classes on August 24 on all 10 campuses, President David Lassner said in an email to faculty and others in the university community.

"We all realize that the fall will absolutely not be a return to business as usual," Lassner said. "Rather, UH will deploy a COVID19-aware safe approach to providing high-quality education throughout the state for new and returning students at this very time when they and our State need higher education more than ever."

He said planning is underway to ensure safety and that some classes will be a hybrid of online and on-campus instruction.

The university will review any needed classroom configuration and changes to common areas and workspaces for social distancing, he said. Student dorms residence hall will be open in Manoa and Hilo with isolation and social distancing measures in place.

He said the university is also preparing for any significant COVID-19 outbreak that could mean one or two campuses may need to return to fully online classes.

Where Hawaii stands

Hawaii has one additional coronavirus case for a total of 621, the state health department reported today. The death toll stands at 17. The latest case is a Big Island man, the department said. Hawaii has seen a run of daily single-digit increases, continuing a declining trend that is spurring efforts to reopen the state. 

Oahu's case count remains at 400, Maui County at 116, Hawaii County at 75, and Kauai at 21. Nine were diagnosed out of state.

Health officials yesterday reported the latest coronavirus-related death at Maui Memorial Medical Center. The Maui woman had been at the hospital since late February and became infected in mid-April. Whether the case is part of the cluster of cases at the hospital or unrelated has not been determined, according to the COVID-19 Joint Information Center.

While the coronavirus is not believed to be the primary cause of death due to the woman's other serious illnesses, it may have been a contributing factor, the health department said in a news release.

“With the pending reopening of businesses, we urge everyone to continue doing what they’ve been doing -- stay at home, unless it’s necessary to go out, practice social distancing, wash your hands, and wear masks," said Health Director Bruce Anderson. "For now, this is our new normal, in order to protect each other and prevent the spread of the disease.”

Oahu retailers may open in mid-May as Honolulu lifts more restrictions

Last week, Oahu car dealerships, golf courses and automated services were allowed to restart. Now, retail stores may open as soon as mid-May.

The initial easing of restrictions came after data showed a decline in new COVID-19 cases on Oahu. Mayor Kirk Caldwell says if the trend continues, he’ll lift more restrictions under the city’s stay-at-home order.

And if all goes well, he says retail stores will be among the next businesses to reopen -- with safety modifications in place.

But, given the advice of a medical advisory panel, Caldwell says he won’t consider easing his order until mid-May.

"It takes 14 days, sometimes even longer, to see someone become symptomatic. And you don’t want to do a bunch of things and then find a whole bunch of cases. And you’ve done a bunch of things close to each other, and you don’t know which one caused the problem," the mayor told HPR.

Yesterday's Hawaii Updates: Another death tied to Maui Memorial. Visitor arrivals spike, as lawmakers raise airport screening concerns. State law enforcement officers cite two, one a visitor, at Sacred Falls.

"So they say be a little careful, don’t rush too quickly. One physician mentioned Hokkaido was very, very aggressive in the beginning. They shut down the entire island, and they flattened the curve. And then they very quickly opened up, and they had a spike, and they shut it back down again. Shutting us down again is going to be really hard after opening up. So we don’t want to get there."

Caldwell says for restrictions to be further relaxed, residents need to continue following the city’s stay-at-home order guidelines.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

Hirono says states need federal COVID-19 relief 

Congress expects to focus the next coronavirus aid bill on the struggling 50 states. It’s important legislation for Hawaii, which is facing a budget shortfall of about $1.5 billion as the pandemic roils the local economy.

On Facebook Live last week, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono – a Democrat – talked about the partisan challenges in passing a measure to help the states.

"If we don't provide support for state and local governments, the people who work for state and local governments, we're going to see -- and the families that rely on the services...you're going to see potential cuts and services, layoffs, and that would be horrible for our community," she said.

She said Democrats have pushed for support aid to state and local governments in the next relief bill. "And I know you heard Mitch McConnell say, 'Oh, we should just let them declare bankruptcy.' That is one of the most -- I could swear but I won’t -- one of the worst things that Mitch McConnell came up with, and it's just amazing the kind of attitude they have, about the kind of support that we should be giving the states.”

McConnell and some Republicans had resisted a request from the governors for $500 billion in assistance, although he recently moderated his comments, saying he's open to considering help for the states.

Hirono says the governors may not get all they requested, but that what they have from the federal government thus far to address their shortfalls is zero.

The Senate is convening today despite health concerns but on the agenda first are President Trump's executive and judicial nominees rather than pandemic relief legislation.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro 

Kauai County offices reachable by phone, appointments for in-person service

Most Kauai County offices will remain closed under the state stay-at-home order, Mayor Derek Kawakami said yesterday. But offices will be staffed Monday through Thursday, 6:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., for phone assistance and, in some cases, by appointment. They will be closed on Fridays.

Information for contacting the offices can be found on the county's online directory.

"Everyone wants things back to normal—or what a lot of people are calling the new normal. But we cannot make these decisions in a vacuum," he said. Businesses like hair salons and barbershops remain closed under Gov. David Ige's emergency orders.

"Right now we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Kauai. But that does not mean the disease is not here," he said. "Where and when we can safely reopen, we will."

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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