Hawaii Updates: Cases At 465, 8 Deaths; Oahu, Maui Curfews Tonight; Jobless Claims Exceed 205,000

Apr 10, 2020

Updated: 4/10/2020, 7:12 p.m.

 

The state's confirmed and presumed positive coronavirus cases today number 465, up 23 from the previous day, according to the state's latest daily update. Two deaths bring the count up to eight. 

The seventh death was an older adult woman from Honolulu. She was medically frail and hospitalized. The eighth death was an elderly male hospitalized at Maui Memorial Medical Center in the chronic care unit.

Health Director Bruce Anderson said today that the department is investigating if the death is tied to the outbreak at Maui Memorial, where 19 workers have now tested positive. 

Oahu has 343 cases, Maui 66, Big Island 31 and Kauai 19. There are four pending investigation and two cases were diagnosed out of state.  Forty-three cases have required hospitalization. 

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

Big Island orders vacation rentals, B&Bs, timeshares to shut down

 

Vacation rentals, bed and breakfast operations and timeshares have been ordered closed effective Monday under the governor's emergency order responding to the coronavirus, the County of Hawai announced today.

 

The county says Mayor Harry Kim's rule will remain in place through the emergency or until the order is ended.

 

In a news release, the county said the short-term rentals, B&Bs and timeshares are not essential businesses. Many of them are in residential communities, according to the county, and accommodate visitors who may not be complying with the state's mandatory 14-day quarantine.

 

The order prohibits the lodging sites trom operating and advertising. Those currently staying at the locations can remain until the end of their booking periods.

 

Violators of the order face maximum fines of $5,000 and imprisonment up to a year.

 

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said earlier this week that short-term rentals are not essential businesses and should not be operating. He and other mayors have not been happy that visitors continue to come to the islands despite the mandatory quarantine.

 

He said part of the concern is that unlike hotels where guests can be more easily monitored, there is no way to enforce the quarantine on visitors in vacation rentals.

 

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami closed vacation rentals starting today along with golf courses. 

 

On Maui, short-term rentals and B&Bs are prohibited from operating unless to house essential workers and the rentals can't take new reservations during the emergency. 

 

Overnight curfews start tonight on Oahu, Maui

 

Starting tonight and ending Monday morning, no vehicles will be allowed on Oahu and Maui roads between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., with a few exceptions.

Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard announced the trial curfew for Oahu yesterday. It's a ramp-up of enforcement during the current coronavirus crisis when residents should be staying at home.

 

Ballard said the department won't set up roadblocks, but will have more officers patrolling the roads overnight.

 

"That means if you’re out there, then the officers may stop you. There are some exceptions to this. So for those people who are driving to and from work, for those people who are making deliveries, security vehicles, those who are picking up medication, and also, of course, anybody who needs to go to the hospital, or there’s an emergency. And of course, you know, any of our first responders. So please, stay home. That’s all that we’re asking you," Ballard said.

 

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino also announced a nighttime curfew trial for the county this weekend with roving checkpoints beginning tomorrow.

 

Maui’s curfew will have the same hours and restrictions as Honolulu’s. Maui also is generally allowing only two household members to leave home for essential activities and essential businesses are required to limit entrance to two people per household.

 

Both counties will decide on Monday whether the curfews will be extended until the end of the month.

The Honolulu and Maui curfews are similar to one that's been in effect on Kauai since March 20.

As of Wednesday, HPD has issued 700 citations and made 41 arrests since the city’s stay-at-home, work-from-home order took effect March 23.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

State unemployment claims exceed 205,000, busy lines continue

The state’s antiquated computer system has made it impossible for labor officials to say how many workers have received unemployment checks since the COVID-19 crisis forced people from their jobs.

More than 205,000 jobless claims have been filed as of Wednesday. That's according to Scott Murakami, director of the state labor department.

He told state senators yesterday that his department knows checks are going out. He just can’t say how many of those who filed for benefits have been paid – and when others will see their checks.

State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz asked Murakami what it would take for an applicant to find out about his or her claim.

“So someone has to call then. They have to say, ‘I'm sorry, I didn't get my check.’ They call you. Right?" Dela Cruz asked. "Then you can check individually if they got called, if they got paid or not.  That’s the only way."

Murakami acknolwedged that is what's required by claimants, who continue to face busy lines.

"Those are the types of calls they’re getting, we’re getting. That's why the calls are very heavy because we got to check individually with each claim. And that's why, you know, that's why we wanted to modernize the system and we're working with everybody on doing that,” he said.

Murakami said the federal government requires the state to process applications within 21 days if all information has been received. But his department aims to reduce that to 14 days.

 

Department officials are setting up a claims center at the state library scheduled to open Tuesday, Murakami said, with workers being trained.

 

Members of the Senate COVID-19 emergency committee urged Murakami to get more workers onboard to help clear the backlog. 

 

Information on filing unemployment claims is available on HPR's Hawaii List, resources to ride out a crisis.

 

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

 

 

Release of inmates backed by special master

 

The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court is moving forward on recommendations from Special Master Daniel Foley that include giving judges the final say in releasing inmates on a case-by-case basis.  

Foley yesterday recommended Hawaiʻi proceed with plans to release potentially hundreds of inmates from the state’s overcrowded correctional facilities to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak.

That recommendation was part of his report on how to handle the state’s incarcerated population amid the pandemic.

Today, the justices issued an amended order calling on the state Department of Public Safety to provide an accurate list of inmates with the potential for release by Tuesday at noon.

The list will allow the state Office of the Public Defender to identify inmates for potential release so that appropriate motions can be filed for consideration by the court. 

Foley urged greater collaboration among state agencies to figure out who could be released. But he said the court should make the final decision.

"Nobody leaves without that judge saying 'OK' and under what conditions. That’s the way it’s always been. That’s the way it should be," he said.

Foley’s 44-page report suggests potential candidates for release could include non-violent pretrial detainees and inmates doing time for violating parole or probation.

Criminal justice advocate Carrie Ann Shirota said judges should act quickly.

"The judges need to act with swiftness. This is a pandemic. We know from the experiences of other states in the federal prisons that people are getting severely ill and dying," she said.

According to the state Department of Public Safety, an estimated 548 inmates have already been released from correctional facilities statewide in the last month.

That has ʻEwa state Sen. Kurt Favella worried about what happens to inmates after release.

"What the public wants to know – where are these inmates when they leave? 'Cause you release them with no ID, no birth certificate, no address. Guess where they going? On the streets. In our communities," he said.

--HPR's Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi

 

Oahu park enforcement growing stricter

 

The Honolulu Police Department is ramping up its enforcement of beach and park closures.

Police Chief Susan Ballard announced yesterday more officers will be patrolling Oahu beach parks, which have been closed for nearly a month.

Up to this point, officers have issued warnings to people in parks and on beaches if they were in a group or part of a gathering.

Confusion also arose around city and state jurisdictions at beaches and the circumstances allowing people to move through a beach park.

During a Mayor Kirk Caldwell press conference, Ballard clarified what is and isn’t allowed at city beaches and parks.

"For those folks who are out there running and walking on the beach park, or on the sidewalks, that is not allowed. The only place that you can run and walk is below the high watermark. So what does that mean? The easiest thing for me to relate to is if you’re running or walking in the water. You’re going to be okay. If you’re on the sand, you’re violating the proclamation for the city," the police chief said.

Caldwell added people can move through beaches or city property to access the ocean – but must go home after getting out of the water.

--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.