Hawaii Updates: Honolulu Businesses Allowed To Reopen; Cases Up 4; City Moves Ahead With Tests

Apr 29, 2020

Updated: 4/29/2020, 11:58 a.m.

Where Hawaii stands

Health officials reported four new cases of the coronavirus today, continuing a trend of single-digit increases in recent days that is spurring efforts to reopen the state. Hawaii's case count is at 613. Deaths stand at 16.

The Oahu case count is now at 399, Maui County 115, Hawaii Island 70, and Kauai 21. No cases are pending determination of county and eight were diagnosed out of state.

The Maui County count includes a Lanai resident -- the island's first case -- who has been hospitalized on Maui for an extended time, having been transported to Maui in early March for treatment not tied to the coronavirus. The patient initially tested negative, but a second screening came back positive. 

City gets governor's OK to reopen certain businesses

Select Honolulu businesses will be allowed to reopen this Friday, with modifications on how they operate.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced this afternoon Governor David Ige has approved the city's request to amend its stay-at-home order to allow businesses such as car dealerships and golf courses to reopen as early as Friday.

Ige’s latest emergency order limits the power of county mayors and requires they get his approval for any changes to their stay-at-home orders.

Changes to the amended stay-at-home order add the limited reopening of certain businesses and operations such as:

  • Certain real estate services. All real property sales and management activities must be accomplished by remote/electronic means whenever possible. Restrictions and permitted real estate services are outlined in Emergency Order No. 2020-09;
  • New and used car and truck dealerships -- sales and leasing activities (with restrictions, such as no test drives);
  • Automated service providers. Service providers that do not require human interaction between the service provider and the customer, including for example, fully automated car washes;
  • Mobile service providers. Businesses that provide service on a mobile bases in which no human interaction between the service provider and the customer, including, but not limited to, mobile pet grooming and car washing/detailing businesses;
  • Services provided on a one-on-one bases. Businesses that provide services such as private tutoring, certain music instrument lessons, etc., on a one-on-one basis, that comply with social distancing requirements;
  • Public and private golf courses within the City operating in accordance with the guidelines set forth in the Professional Golfers’ Association’s “Procedures for Reintroduction to the Game and Business of Golf” as may be updated/amended

Grave site visits have also been added to the list of essential activities.

Caldwell yesterday repeated that factors like COVID-19 test results and contact tracing will be weighed in lifting any city restrictions.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

Testing debate continues between city, state

As state and county governments start to reopen businesses, one thing they all agree on is the need for testing. But who gets tested and how the tests will be carried out are still up for debate.

The state health department’s lab director, Edward Desmond, repeated his position yesterday that people without COVID-19 symptoms shouldn’t be tested, even if it turns out they were infected.

"You enter first a latent period in which the virus is incubating but there's no test that will give you a positive result during that time," he told state lawmakers on the Senate COVID-19 committee. "So someone who is asymptomatic and they want to be tested and feel comforted that their test result was negative, but that would be misleading. Everyone is supposed to be testing symptomatic people. It's also imp-ortant because it's [tests] a limited resource."

 

But Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says there needs to be more testing for both symptomatic and asymptomatic people.

"All health care workers, all first responders, and they [officials] need to reevaluate Hawaii's test criteria as you go forward, both nationally and internationally. What are the best practices in our country and around the world and we're all learning together," he said. This is why Caldwell is still trying to increase testing on Oahu.

Yesterday's Hawaii Updates: Cases Up 2; Ige Restarting Businesses, Florists Included; Survey: Some Companies Have No Income

Last week, the state health department criticized Caldwell’s plans to buy 10,000 tests from Everlywell, a medical test company based in Nevada. Caldwell says he’s open to using other testing methods, but that the numbers need to increase.

"We're going to be pursuing other testing opportunities, we're not going to back away. We want to continue to see how can we ramp up testing anything more. And if at all possible, we want to work with local labs and local facilities and institutions."

Desmond says the state has about 3,000 unused COVID19 test kits that will be used to expand sentinel surveillance. That’s the program the department prefers to broad testing. It allows the state to sample targeted parts of the population to see how far the virus has spread.

The health department has tested over 925 samples through sentinel testing so far, but hopes to ramp it up soon.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo

Labor director: For some, unemployment pays more than working 

With the federal government offering $600 a week on top of jobless benefits for workers affected by COVID-19, some Americans are opting to remain on unemployment.

State Labor Director Scott Murakami says his department is seeing such cases in Hawaii as well.

“The challenge that we're seeing is that some people don't want to go back to work and the reason is their benefit payment is much larger than the pay they may be receiving," he said. "So individuals like that, they may just decide to stay on the program, right? But that technically is not a choice for them. They're supposed to go back to work."

Murakami said those workers will then have to file an appeal with the Employment Securities Appeals Referee's Office, which can say an employee should have gone back to work. Or, the office could say the situation is such that it's alright for the worker to have remained on unemployment.

"If they side on the side of the claimant, they will be able to maintain their benefits all the way through that [unemployment] period. But if they side on the side of the employer, that triggers a back payment, and we're going to have to go and collect it back from the claimant,” he said.

Murakami told state senators yesterday that some of the appeals may be complicated – such as the case of a worker who works with visitors and whose employer doesn’t provide enough protective gear.

The labor department has been handling several issues in processing unemployment benefits, including a backlog of jobless claims it’s still trying to resolve.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

Citations, warnings issued in parks by state enforcement officers

Over 100 citations were issued last Friday for violations of state emergency rules, including for entering closed state parks, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said yesterday in a news release. 

The state parks were closed by the governor in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Among those cited were two Honolulu men, both 21, who entered the closed Diamond Head State Monument. Enforcement officers escorted the men out of the park, the department said.

The 107 citations included park violations such as ones involving alcohol possession and parking restricions. 

More than 300 warnings were also issued, the department said.

Maui County food distribution set for Hana, Lanai

Distributions of bags of food and produce are set in Maui County locations today.

In Hana, the distribution begins at 3 p.m. at Hana Ball Park. Enter the site via one-way access from Hauoli Road through Uakea Road.

The groceries will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis; one bag per vehicle. 

On Lanai, fresh produce will be distributed to seniors at the Lanai Senior Center at 11 a.m. Enter from Gay Street.

Meals on Wheels will also be distributing bags of produce to seniors.

Produce distribution to the general public is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the county parking lot between the county gym and school cafeteria.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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