Hawaii Updates: Cases At 410; Mayor: Vacation Rentals Not Essential; Recovery May Hinge On Vaccine

Apr 7, 2020

Updated: 4/7/2020, 2:30 p.m.

 

Oahu vacation rentals are not essential businesses and should not be taking in visitors, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said today.

 

During a press conference on Facebook Caldwell again raised concerns about the continuing influx of visitors and their increasing numbers as cheap flights are offered by airlines eager for paying passengers.

 

Caldwell said if visitors are putting down on their agricultural forms when they arrive that they have lodging in a vacation rental, they should not be allowed to stay.

 

Caldwell, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami and Maui Mayor Michael Victorino had asked the governor to support a letter to President Trump calling for a halt to all nonessential travel to the islands. The governor rejected the request, saying he was told by federal officials that the government cannot keep passengers from boarding airplanes.

 

The mayor said he was not looking to stop returning residents, flight crews or cargo from coming to the state but that visitors should not be arriving.

 

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported another increase in visitor traffic, with 133 tourists and 182 residents arriving yesterday.

 

In other developments:

  • Homeless: Honolulu police have tapped $6 million earmarked for homeless service sites to create a tent facility in Keehi Lagoon Beach Park for those asymptomatic homeless who want to be screened and can self-quarantine for 15 days. The site is intended to serve 40 to 50 individuals. If any are found to be positive for COVID-19, they will likely be moved to the city's new homeless isolation facility in Iwilei. Two other park sites are in the works and a larger location is also being sought, said Police Capt. Mike Lambert. 
  • Testing: Caldwell again called for more testing to determine where the cases of the coronavirus is spreading and to flatten the curve, a reference to the increase in cases that can overtax local medical facilities if not reduced. The city is sponsoring a screening site at the Waianae Small Boat Harbor and Waipio Soccer Field. 
  • Waimanalo Beach Park: The mayor said a small bone fragment has been found where work is being done in Waimanalo Beach Park. Construction is continuing around the location where the bone was found while archaeologists and others discuss what next steps to take. Some community members oppose construction at the park and have called for work to stop.

 

Where Hawaii stands

 

The state's confirmed and presumed positive coronavirus cases today number 410, up by 23 from yesterday, with no new deaths, according to the state's latest daily update. The death count stands at five.

 

 

Oahu now has 312 cases, Maui 48, Big Island 23 and Kauai 18. There are 7 pending investigation and 2 cases were diagnosed out of state.  Forty-two cases have required hospitalization. 

The health department said the number of travel-related cases is dropping and there is greater concern about community spread. 

-- HPR's News Staff

Hawaii Guard helping Kauai police enforce orders

Unarmed Hawaii National Guard units will be helping Kauai police today to enforce the state and county emergency orders.

 

Two checkpoints will be the start of more routine ones around the island, the county said in a news release. Those designated essential workers should anticipate delays driving through the checkpoints. 

 

"We have reached a critical moment in the pandemic, as case counts climb," said Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck. "Our island has very limited healthcare resources and we must all give careful consideration to how our individual actions may cause the virus to spread further throughout our community."

 

Kauai police rather than the Guard will be carrying out any enforcement. Violations of the emergency orders are misdemeanors that carry maximum fines of $5,000 and a year in jail.

 

 

Hawaii economic recovery may hinge on development of vaccine

 

Although Hawaii and the rest of the United States are still grappling with the spread of the coronavirus, leaders in government and industry are already planning for the eventual resumption of normal economic activity.

 

Hawaii is a tourism economy. And worldwide, tourism has been the industry hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

 

That’s one reason Hawaii led the country in per capita unemployment claims last week.

 

Local economists are looking for ways to minimize that disruption and safely restart economic activity.

 

Carl Bonham with the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization says that could potentially take a long time.

  

"The worst case scenario is that it doesn’t happen until a vaccine is developed, that’s 12 to 18 months," he said.

 

But travel could resume from certain regions sooner if the pandemic can be brought under control.

 

"Probably one of the more important elements is, when are rapid, same-day tests available. So we can do rapid prescreening of potential tourists before they get on a plane to fly here. So tourism could resume very quickly, if Hawaii is seen as a safe place," he said.

 

Bonham says if we can beef up testing and screening now, Hawaii has an opportunity to become the premier destination for travelers as the pandemic subsides.

 

The state is receiving Abbott Laboratories rapid test kits today but Health Director Bruce Anderson said they will be used in hospitals and not for wider testing because of limited supplies.

 

More than 13,000 people have already been tested for Covid-19 in Hawaii, making it one of the top states for testing per capita.  

 

-- HPR's Ryan Finnerty

 

Hawaii received only 25% of requested for PPEs

Gov. David Ige says he understands Hawaii has received only 25 percent of what it requested from the strategic national stockpile for medical personal protective equipment.

Ige gave that update yesterday as projections show the state will see a surge in COVID-19 cases in the next month.

“FEMA has instructed every governor in every state to pursue their own supply chains for PPE and so we have been aggressively seeking vendors and making purchases for personal protective equipment," the governor said. "

The FEMA officials have made it very clear that they are looking and coordinating PPE orders all across the country and they are committed to ensuring that those who need it most will get it.”

The state’s search comes as other states are also desperately seeking sources to supply hospitals and emergency personnel with masks, gowns and other needed equipment.

Ige said the state received a shipment of supplies from the national stockpile last week -- and because of that the state is in "good shape."

But it’s not clear if it will be enough to carry the state through what will be a months-long crisis.

-- HPR's Sandee Oshiro

Honolulu police stepping up enforcement

The Honolulu Police Department yesterday announced it will be stepping up its enforcement of the state and county's stay-at-home orders today. 

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell alluded to the enforcement during a press conference yesterday, saying the education period for the orders has passed.

 

Police Chief Susan Ballard last week said officers will warn residents and visitors of the stay-at-home orders before issuing a citation. 

-- HPR's Casey Harlow

 

 

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.