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The Latest: 134 New Cases; Gov. Ige Announces Proposed Budget Cuts

Ryan Finnerty / HPR

Updated 12/21/20, 3:49 p.m.

Governor David Ige has released his proposed state budget for lawmakers to consider in the 2021 legislative session. Ige says the two year spending plan reflects the difficult decisions forced on the state by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The extent of the state's projected revenue loss means that permanent and ongoing changes must be made to the way state government operates," Ige said during a Monday press conference.

"Regrettably, we are unable to shield our employees and priority programs from reduction. In addition, we will continue to evaluate those that are necessary to bring out

The proposed budget includes cuts to all departments, including the K-12 public education system and the University of Hawaii. 

However, the cuts are not final. The legislature has the ulimate authority to set state spending.

Ige said he would work with lawmakers in 2021 to revise the budget. If more relief money comes from the federal government, or if funds can be generated by raising taxes.

-- HPR's Ryan Finnerty

Where we stand

The state Department of Health reported 134 new cases on Monday.

According to the state's numbers, O?ahu had 104 new cases, Maui 14, Hawai?i County, 13, Kaua?i 1, Lanai and Moloka?i had none.

The latest state counts bring the O?ahu total to 17,158, Hawai?i County 1,816, Maui 785, Kaua?i 138, Lanai 106 and Moloka?i 22. The number of out-of-state cases total 326.

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 20,351 cases. The death toll stands at 282.

Caldwell concerned by new case spike

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Sunday repeated his request that inmate coronavirus cases not be included in O?ahu's case count numbers.

On Sunday, the state Department of Health reported one new death, and a total of 204 new infections statewide. 180 of those new cases were on O?ahu.

During a Sunday press conference, Caldwell said DOH officials have unofficially told him that as many as 93 of the latest cases may have come from Halawa Correctional Facility. 

Last week, Caldwell asked Governor David Ige to remove infected prisoners from the city's daily case tally. Caldwell says he recently discussed his request to Ige, but noted that the prison outbreak still has an impact on O?ahu's healthcare system.

The rolling seven-day average for new cases is now up to 113, with a positivity rate of 3.8%. If that case rate remains for the next two weeks, that will put Honolulu back at Tier One restrictions for the new year -- moving back from the current level of Tier Two.

That would result in the shutdown of gyms and impose further restrictions on restaurants and other businesses. Caldwell says he is concerned with the trend, but isn't considering another full lockdown at this time.

"I know this, opening, shutting of our island is hugely damaging," Caldwell said. "It does bring down the cases, it worked twice and brought down the cases dramatically, but there's a lot of bloodletting with busineses."

Caldwell says now is not a time to "let our guard down" despite the approval and rollout of two COVID-19 vaccines.

-- HPR's Casey Harlow and Bill Dorman

Feds warn of vaccine scams

Federal law enforcement agencices are advising residents to be aware of COVID-19 vaccine scams.

The FBI, Department of Justice and Inspector General have received several reports across the country that scammers are using the COVID vaccine to swindle people out of money.

Special Agent Jason White says the Hawai?i office hasn't received any reports of the scam yet, but advised residents should be on the lookout for signs.

"They may be contact via email or over the phone about ways to pay for a vaccine, or even move up on the list, or give the vaccine before other people," White said. "These are clearly scams."

White says no legitimate government agency will ask people to pay for the vaccine or pay to move up on the vaccination list. Residents should also avoid any advertisements or unknown emails regarding the COVID vaccine.

If you believe you've been a victime of a COVID-19 scam -- contact the FBI's Hawai?i office at 808-566-4300.

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