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The Latest: 4 Deaths, 132 New Cases; Improving Virus Data For Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians

Ashley Mizuo/HPR

Updated 1/22/21, 11:58 a.m.

The latest state COVID-19 data shows more than 3,100 confirmed cases of the virus among Native Hawaiians, including 26 Hawaiians who have died of the coronavirus. The numbers are even worse for Pacific Islanders, who make up about four percent of the state’s population and more than 24% of the state’s COVID-19 cases.

Separate coronavirus data on Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders was not always available.

Kim Ku?ulei Birnie is a spokeswoman for the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander COVID-19 Task Force, which created a Data and Research Committee that’s helped improve the accuracy of virus data.

"The committee started working right away on how to improve the data collection process," Birnie said.

"We had a number of physicians on this particular committee and one of the best achievements, I think, has been a partnership between Queens Health Systems and Pacific Health, which includes Kapi?olani, Straub, Wilcox on Kaua'i and so forth, to get a standardized data collection tool for race when it comes to COVID-19 screening."

She says everything we know about COVID-19 is emerging — including research.

The task force submitted articles on the impact of COVID-19 on Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders to the Hawai?i Journal of Health and Social Welfare, which is set to be published in the next couple of months.

-- HPR's Ku?uwehi Hiraishi

Where we stand

The state Department of Health reported 132 new cases and four new fatalities on Friday.

According to the state's numbers, O?ahu had 97, Maui 19, Hawai?i Island 5, Kaua?i 1, and Lanai and Moloka?i had no new cases. 9 residents were diagnosed out of state.

The latest state count brings the O?ahu total to 20,230, Hawai?i County 2,113, Maui 1,550, Kaua?i 177, Lanai 106, and Moloka?i 25. The number of out-of-state cases totals 669.

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 24,870 cases. The death toll stands at 332.

Hawaii GOP raise concerns with state's election evaluation

The state Elections Commission says the handling of the November general election was mostly good. But it will investigate concerns raised by the Hawaii Republican Party.

The commission met Thursday to discuss and review an evaluation of operations during the general election. 

The Hawaii Republican Party objected to the report, saying concerns raised by the organization were not addressed by state and local officials during a December meeting. 

"It is the other than mostly good, and for the most part that concerns us," said Laura Nakanelua, national committeewoman for the Hawaii Republican Party.

"Because that offers much room for error, I would say, not neccessarily malfeasance -- but certainly error."

Nakanelua told the commission she's concerned the evaluation also doesn't mention or reflect voter concerns, as well as the party's objections to the last election.

"To not be heard, or to not have our voices publicly shared, is to disenfranchise a number of voters here in the islands," Nakanelua said. "We're only seeking to be on record with what we, in-person, observed ourselves, and, in general, have concerns over. For example, the lack of verifiable chain of custody."

Despite some objections, the commission passed an evaluation to the legislature. The body noted there were concerns raised within their report, and they will make revisions with the commission's findings in the matter.

-- HPR's Casey Harlow

Rep. Case re-introduces 'Safe & Quiet Skies' Act

Congressman Ed Case re-introduced a bill that would impose added safety and community disruption regulations on commercial air tour operations, including helicopters and small planes.

"In 2019 alone, there wer 17 sightseeing tour flight and skydiving accidents nationwide with 37 tragic deaths from six of those crash," Case said.

The proposed law would direct the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt tighter safety recommendations advanced by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB is resposible for reviewing the causes of aircraft accidents and making recommendations to improve operations safety. However, the FAA is responsible for acting on those recommendations.

The act also would, among other things, require tour flight fly above 1,500 feet over actual ground at all times, require flights over resiential, commercial and recreational areas to be no louder than 55 decibels, and allow states and require pilots only focus on safely operating the aircraft.

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