Hawaii Updates: As Case Count Hits 258, Expect 'It Will Get Worse'; Small Biz Loans Available

Apr 1, 2020

Updated: 4/1/2020, 3:30 p.m.

Hawaii's coronavirus case count jumped today to 258, according to the state health department's latest update. The number of positive and presumptive positive cases represents an increase of 34 from yesterday. Oahu now has a total of 182 coronavirus cases, Maui 26, Kauai 12 and the Big Island 18. 

Thirteen cases are pending county of diagnosis or residency and two residents were diagnosed out of state. Fifteen of the total cases have required hospitalization.

The Hawaii Department of Health said yesterday that a person who was diagnosed with coronavirus had died. The Oahu man was described as elderly with underlying medical conditions.

Today, Health Director Bruce Anderson said the death was consistent with coronavirus and that the man had traveled to Las Vegas, one of the cities with high rates of infection.

The Queen's Health Systems said yesterday that one of its employees has tested positive for COVID-19, the first for the hospital group. The worker is under self-isolation at home, Queen's said in a news release, and patients and hospital staff have been alerted.

Hawaii is seeing more COVID-19 cases of community spread and fewer that are travel-connnected as the restrictions on visitors to the island approaches its second week.

Anderson said today that health officials expected the coronavirus case numbers to go up for a while before they begin declining. Anderson said officials are looking at a number of models to project when cases will peak and that they range from a few weeks to a few months.

He said Hawaii is early on in the course of epidemic and "I expect it will get worse before it gets better." Hawaii can expect more deaths because the state has an older population, he added.

Anderson said he's comfortable saying the state has not seen widespread community transmission, but added social distancing orders need to be followed.

Small business loans available, but official says apply soon

Hawaii small businesses are urged to gather up their paperwork for federal loans to help them weather the coronoavirus economic storm -- and to apply quickly.

Jane Sawyer, director of the Small Business Administration Hawaii District, told state senators that a finite pot of money has been set aside for the loans -- so it’s first come, first served.

“My recommendation is to look at the website, get the information, collect documents you might need to help you submit the application. And I do recommend getting in queue as soon as as soon as you can.

"As I said, there's no obligation to take the loan. There's no cost to apply all of these programs, should you take a loan and find out you don't need it. There's no prepayment penalty, and with the likelihood that a portion of the loans will be forgiven, if you use the loan for loan proceeds, but you can't go to Vegas, so you know, you might as well you know put the money where you said it was going.”

Two major loan programs are available.

One is the economic disaster injury loan that can help businesses cover a loss of revenue. It’s a loan advance that needn’t be paid back. Businesses can apply on SBA's website.  

The second is a payroll protection loan to help small businesses cover wages and other expenses to keep workers employed.

Applications are made through banks and credit unions that have worked with SBA.

Sawyer says businesses can reach out to their banks to get ready to apply once guidelines and underwriting criteria are issued.

Federal disaster declaration to free up assistance

Hawaii has been declared a major disaster area by President Trump, allowing federal emergency aid to flow to the state to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

According to a FEMA announcement, the assistance is available to state and local governments and certain nonprofits on a cost-sharing basis. Eligible assistance includes reimbursement for such costs as running emergency operating centers, disinfecting public facilities, and medical treatment of infected people in a shelter or temporary medical facility.

Information on how much in federal assistance would be available to Hawaii under the declaration wasn't provided in the announcement.

Interisland travelers quarantine order in effect

Hawaii Gov. David Ige's interisland travel quarantine emergency order took effect at 12:01 a.m. today and runs through April 30. All those traveling between the islands are now required to self-quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

There are exceptions for those traveling interisland for medical or health care reasons. They won't need to quarantine for the 14 days, but they will be required to wear "appropriate protective gear" and abide by social distancing requirements.

Essential workers who are traveling interisland will need to self-quarantine but can break away from it while performing their necessary functions, according to the governor's order. Once they are back at their lodging, they'll need to self-quarantine again. When they return to their island residence, they won't need to self-quarantine, so long as they wear protective gear and practice social distancing.

Interisland travelers need to fill out an interisland declaration form before boarding. They can download a copy from the Hawaii Department of Hawaii website, fill it out and bring it with them to the airport.

No one will be turned away for not wearing personal protective equipment, transportation department spokesman Tim Sakahara clarified today.

The interisland travel order follows by a week the 14-day quarantine directive imposed on domestic and international travelers. The order has essentially shut down the visitor industry since it requires tourists who arrive in the state to stay in their hotel rooms for the two weeks or the length of their stays, if shorter.

UW study projects hundreds of Hawaii deaths by August

A University of Washington modeling study may be giving us a grim glimpse into Hawaii’s future as the number of local coronavirus cases continue to climb.

The study by the university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation says Hawaii has about 30 days until it hits its peak medical resource use.

That means on May 1, Hawaii is projected to have a shortage of 154 hospital beds.

The study also predicts that the state will have 374 coronavirus deaths by August 4. Governor David Ige says the study is flawed.

"We have the most extreme actions taken, the 14-day mandatory quarantine. No other state in the country has implemented that," he said. "We are instituting the 14-day interIsland mandatory quarantine. So that study did not reflect any restriction on travel. And we have extreme restriction on travel."

The report took into account each state's social distancing policies and when the policies took effect.

The researchers say the timing of these strategies was critical to estimating when the states would reach the peak of their medical resource capacity.

Hawaii’s mandatory quarantine for domestic and international travel went into effect last Thursday. The restrictions for inter-island travel started today.

Ige says he contacted the University of Washington researchers and asked to have the Hawaii mandates taken into account.

He noted that state epidemiologist Sarah Park is looking into building a model of their own but more data is needed before it can be accurately completed.

On a more promising note, the university's study says the state will need 134 ventilators on the peak date. The most recent count says the state has 534.

— HPR's Ashley Mizuo

Mayor asks Trump to stop nonessential travel to state

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is urging President Donald Trump to stop all nonessential travel coming to Hawaiʻi in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. But not all of his fellow mayors are on board.

Caldwell announced yesterday he's reaching out to the president after expressing frustration over visitors continuing to arrive to the islands without any plans for self-quarantine.

It’s been a week since Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation requiring travelers from out of state – both visitors and returning residents – to quarantine for two weeks.

Since then Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he’s been frustrated with unprepared visitors.

"We had three folks arrive who didnʻt have a home and went to homeless shelters and now put burden on the shelter to try to quarantine in place for 14 days where they are already stressed out and challenged. This should not occur," he said.

Caldwell plans to send a letter to President Trump asking him to stop all non-essential travel to Hawai’i.

"No one – absolutely no one – should be coming to Hawaiʻi for a vacation at this point," the mayor said.

Caldwell said mayors from both Maui and Kaua’i counties have signed on and that the letter is being reviewed by the governor.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim says he wonʻt sign it. He says the self-quarantine order already in place is more than enough of a deterrent for visitors. Kim also worried that removing a federal travel ban could prevent Hawaiʻi from getting back on its feet, economically.

"Once this is over to lift a total ban like that takes additional time. What we have here can be lifted as soon as all the documents show that it's safe enough to lift the quarantine. And thatʻs the reason I told the mayor of Honolulu, 'No, I donʻt think it's in the best interest of our island.'"

— HPR's Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

Chief: HPD issues warnings, then citations

The Honolulu Police Department has issued nearly 1,500 warnings and 180 citations to residents since March 23 when the city’s stay at home order went into effect. A similar state order is also in place.

During a news conference yesterday, Police Chief Susan Ballard explained the department’s position in enforcing both emergency proclamations.

She said officers will first educate and warn residents of the rules in effect before resorting to a citation.

"If the warning isn’t sufficient and they refuse to listen to the officers, they’re going to be given a citation," she said.

 

 

"One of the rumors involving citations is that we give $1,000 or $5,000 fines, and that’s absolutely not true," Ballard said. It's the courts that impose the fines, she said.

 

Ballard also said the citations may not be for violations of the stay-at-home orders but rather for traffic violations or for being in a park that has been closed, which all city and state parks are.

 

The department has also arrested nine people since Caldwell’s order went into effect. She believes some of them may also be for traffic violations or being in a closed park.

— HPR's Casey Harlow

DOH says Hawaii is third in per capita testing in the country

Hawaii State Health Director Bruce Anderson says that Hawaii is making progress when it comes to testing for COVID-19.

Anderson says the state has been able to increase the pace of testing by extensive use of private laboratories.

“There have been more than 9,363 tests conducted for COVID-19 in Hawaii. Most of those are being done by the private laboratories," said Anderson. "I might add that with now over 9,000 tests conducted, the state of Hawaii is among the top three states in the nation in testing for COVID-19. In fact, New York and Washington are the only states that have tested more people on a per capita basis than we have.”

Anderson also announced the first positive test from the Health Department’s “community surveillance” program.

That’s a statewide random survey of people with flu-like illness where flu has been ruled out. Some 380 specimens have been tested in this program, and Anderson says it is “not surprising” that the first positive test shows what he called “limited and localized spread of the virus, at least on Oahu.”

— HPR's Bill Dorman