Updated: 4/25/2020; 3:31 p.m.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige today extended his mandatory 14-day quarantine and stay-at-home orders through May 31, saying the state is not out of the woods yet.
He says information on utilization of the hospitals and equipment such as ventilators will factor into when he will lift the orders rather than any specific timeline. He said the state will take a phased approach in reopening
“We are flattening the curve,” Ige said. “However, my greatest fear is that if we move to reopen too quickly, we will see a sudden surge in new cases that would result in over-running our healthcare system and more deaths.”
Ige also reversed an earlier state policy closing state beaches for exercise, saying people can exercise on the beaches starting today provided they maintain social distancing.
The decision appeared to be a concession to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Maui Mayor Michael Victorino who opened island beaches for exercise. The competing policies had confused residents.
But the governor also is requiring the counties to get approval from him or that of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HIEMA) before they issue any more emergency orders.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued a statement saying he agrees with the need for greater consistency and coordination with the state. But he's hoping the governor moves quickly with his approvals.
"We will work diligently to provide the Governor and HI-EMA with sufficient advance review of any orders or proclamations that we plan to issue that directly impact our residents. I look forward to the Governor’s expedited review and approval without delay so that we can continue to stay ahead of this pandemic," Caldwell said.
Where Hawaii stands
The total coronavirus-related case count rose to 604 today with three more cases, according to the state Department of Health's latest update. Deaths stand at 14.
The health department said yesterday that one of the deaths is an Oahu man, over 65, who had been hospitalized since early April. He had underlying medical conditions and had traveled to Las Vegas in March. The second is also an Oahu man, over 65, who was recently hospitalized and also had medical conditions.
His infection was the result of community spread, the department said.
The Oahu case count is now 395, Maui County 112, Hawaii Island 69, and Kauai 21. No cases are pending determination of county and seven were diagnosed out of state.
Visitor arrivals process tightens
Airline passengers coming to the islands are undergoing a new verification process before leaving the airport.
State senators, who have been critical of the arrivals procedures, were told the transportation department implemented the new protocol this week at the gates.
Ross Higashi, Airports Division chief, says the latest process is slow but effective in enforcing the mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors.
"The procedure in place is to call passengers contact numbers, for follow-up purposes related to the order for self-quarantine. For non-residents, we’re calling the hotel to verify the passenger has a reservation," he said.
"For residents, we are verifying the place of residence by utilizing the county real property tax assessment search engine. This information does not agree, some passengers are requested to re-verify information provided. If a passenger cannot provide any information, the passenger will be turned over to law enforcement for further processing. Once information is confirmed, order is signed and the person is allowed to leave."
Yesterday's Hawaii Updates: Two More Deaths; City Weighs More Reopening Steps; Weekend Oahu Screenings Set
The DOT had come under fire earlier this month for failing to have a plan to screen passengers – and to verify their reservations before leaving the airport.
While there’s been progress, some visitors are still unaware of the quarantine. Higashi says one arriving Delta Airlines passenger did not know about order.
Once the person learned about it, the passenger decided to return home.
--HPR's Casey Harlow
City parks reopen today for exercise
The City and County of Honolulu is allowing people to exercise at city parks while maintaining social distancing. The relaxing of Mayor Kirk Caldwell's stay-at-home order comes despite the state's shutdown of state beaches.
Allowable exercise include walking, running, and bicycling, but use of sports equipment is not permitted. The city said basketball courts, Hanauma Bay and off-leash dog parks remain closed.
City botanical gardens are also open for walking starting May 1.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story did not make clear that the botanical gardens open May 1.
Labor Department says state paid out $68M in jobless benefits
The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations issued $68,097,470 in unemployment checks between April 17 to April 23, the state said in a news release.
The total includes $44.8 million for the $600-a-week additional payment approved under the federal CARES Act.
The labor department has come under sharp criticism after computer problems and a deluge of applications slowed the filing of claims. Delays continue, although the state hopes that a new processing center at the Hawaii Convention Center will help ease the load.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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