Hawaii Updates: House Speaker Says State Response 'Utterly Chaotic,' Wants 15-Day State Shutdown

Mar 19, 2020

See yesterday’s updates: Hawaii schools closed until April 7, Kauai imposes a curfew, Maui and Honolulu close dine-in.

Updated: 3/19/20, 7:00 p.m.

House Speaker Scott Saiki, calling the response to the pandemic "utterly chaotic," implored Gov. David Ige to shut down the state for 15 days.

He said the governor needs to order all people in Hawaii to shelter-in-place and quarantine all travelers arriving from outside Hawaii for that time period.

"The handling of this COVID-19 pandemic has been utterly chaotic and there is mass confusion among the public," Saiki said in a letter to the governor. "To protect people and the long-term stability of our economy, I implore you to immediately order the shut-down and sheltering-in-place of all people in the State of Hawaii."

Saiki also said the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency should "take all necessary steps" to ensure that the supply chain for basic necessities, including food, water, and gasoline, is secure.

Ige's communications director, Cindy McMillan, issued a statement tonight: "Gov. Ige continues to work through all the options, including their potential benefits and consequences, to secure our islands and do what's best for our communities."

House Speaker Scott Saiki's Letter to Governor David Ige

Hawaii lawmaker first among legislators to test positive, Capitol closes

State Sen. Clarence Nishihara, (D-Waipahu, Crestview, Manana, Pearl City, Pacific Palisades) has tested positive for the coronavirus, making him the first announced case among legislators. The state Capitol is closing as a result of the test results.

State Senate President Ron Kouchi said in a memo that he is recommending all Senate offices close until further notice.

State Speaker Scott Saiki said in a news release that the House will close until April 5. He asked all House members and staff to leave their offices as soon as possible and not return until notified.

Lawmakers had already announced that the session was being suspended indefinitely in response to the outbreak. 

State labor director: Hawaii will see joblessness jump 

Scott Murakami, state labor and industrial relations director, was asked today if Hawaii unemployment will jump by 10 percent, he replied: "By the sheer numbers, yes."

The state's unemployment rate stood at 2.7 percent in January, the latest data released. A 10 percent jump would bring that up to about 3 percent.

The state labor department says a flood of online unemployment applications caused technical issues as nearly 2,300 claims were processed yesterday. The previous day’s claims was even larger -- by about 700 claims.

DOE to offer grab 'n go school breakast, lunch during closure

Hawaii School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto announced a new schedule today that calls for teachers to return to school on April 6 to prepare for the resumption of classes the next day. Custodians, principals and administrators will report to work on April 3.

The department said earlier that the schools would close until April 7 in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Unlike other states and cities, Hawaii has not taken the urgent step of closing schools indefinitely to deal with the spreading pandemic.

The rollout of the DOE's plans to address the outbreak has been marked by confusion: the school initially said it would extend the March 16-20 spring break for four days to allow teachers to prepare for social distancing. The Hawaii State Teachers Association then filed a labor complaint saying social distancing for students, including kindergarteners who couldn't be expected to understand the concept, would not work.

Pending the restart of schools on April 7, the DOE will provide grab 'n go breakfast and lunch in areas where the most students rely on free or reduced lunch.

Tripler Army Medical Center employee tests positive after travel

The Army said an employee of Tripler Army Medical Center has rested positive for COVID-19, the first case of the illness with in the Hawaii Army community.

The Army said in a news release that the employee had traveled to New York and came down with symptoms after returning to Oahu, self-isolating at home as a precaution.

The employee was tested at an urgent care facility after told that a close contact during travel had tested positive.

Amy authorities are now working with the state health department to determine if any individuals were exposed to the worker so they can be notified and receive follow-up.

The worker is in self-isolation and being monitored by Tripler medical personnel.

Actor/producer Daniel Dae Kim among Hawaii virus cases

Daniel Dae Kim, known for his acting role in "Hawaii Five-O" and producer of "The Good Doctor," says he has the coronavirus.

Kim said in an Instagram video that he had been filming his new show in New York. When the virus outbreak stopped production, he flew home to Hawaii and before arrival on Sunday began feeling ill. He said he talked with his doctor, who advised him to quarantine at home.

When his symptoms worsened, he went to a drive-through testing site, took prescribed medication and received the positve results Wednesday morning.

The drive-through testing was the only time he left his home since returning, He said he's feeling better, although "not 100 percent." 

He urged young people not to ignore the spreading disease since it is not limited to the elderly.

 

    View this post on Instagram         

Hi everyone- yesterday I was diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Looks like I’ll be ok, but I wanted share my journey with you in the hopes that you find it informative or helpful. Hope you all stay safe, calm, and above all, healthy.

A post shared by Daniel Dae Kim (@danieldaekim) on

Mar 19, 2020 at 10:34am PDT

Kim also spoke about the demonization of Asians in the aftermath of the outbreak in China.

"Please, please stop the prejudice and senseless violence against Asian people," he said, referring to cases of violence against Asians and the blame for the disease placed by some on that community.

"The name-calling gets us nowhere," he said.

Latest coronavirus numbers 

The state Department of Health says the state total of confirmed and presumptive positive cases of the coronavirus now stands at 26, officials said an update Thursday afternoon. 

There are now 18 cases on Oahu, 5 on Maui, 2 on Kauai and 1 on the Big Island.

Health officials clarified that there has not been a community spread case in the state and that all the Hawaii cases are travel-related.

A Kualoa Ranch employee who was originally identfied as the state's first community spread case was instead categorized as travel-connected because of her contact with tourists.

UH cancels graduation events

The University of Hawaii announced it is canceling commencement at its 10 campuses. The action was expected given the state's strict restrictions on gatherings in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

"Commencement is one of the most time-honored traditions in our society, and it is one of the most highly anticipated celebrations throughout our university system for students, their families and friends," said David Lassner, UH president, in an email to the university community. "We share in your disappointment that this unprecedented health crisis has robbed everyone of this moment."

First of two cruise ships diverted from Hilo heads for Honolulu

Big Island residents are breathing a sigh of relief after Hawaii authorities canceled a cruise ship’s emergency plans to unload hundreds of its passengers at Hilo Harbor.

State transportation officials say the Holland America Line vessel is now set to arrive in Honolulu Friday, but none of its more than 800 passengers will be allowed off the ship.

According to the cruise ship company, the Maasdam has no known or suspected cases of COVID-19. 

The cruise ship's plans to dock in Hilo set off a wave of panic among local residents. Some feared the influx of visitors might increase the chances of the coronavirus spreading on the island.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said the decision to reroute the cruise ship to Honolulu was made out of an abundance of caution.

"You have your responsibilities of protecting this island and one of the ways of protecting it is to minimize people coming here. Those 800 passengers were looking forward to this trip and we had to cut them out from it. Thereʻs no pleasure in that," Kim said.

The Holland America Line cruise ship left Auckland, New Zealand, on March 1 with a final destination of San Diego, California. But as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded around the world, Pacific Island nations along the cruise ship’s route began closing its ports.

Passenger Terri Shanks says she sympathizes with the concerns expressed by Hilo residents. The 49-year-old British citizen and her 8-year-old son, Cameron, have been at sea for 23 days.

"I completely understand the concerns of the people of Hawaiʻi. I had a lady message me just today saying, you know, how worried people were, you know, the shops are bare of supplies, the hospitals, you know, are much smaller hospitals that can’t cope," she said. "So I completely understand. We’d be trying to do the same, absolutely."

Shanks says cruise ship authorities told passengers last week that they would be able to get off the ship in Hilo, and so many began booking air travel out of Hilo and Kona airports. As for Shanks and her son, they have a long and uncertain journey home to the United Kingdom.

"I’m concerned, obviously, about taking a child off the ship that is virus-free and having to go through possibly three international airports with crowds and chaos like that. But I think now we’re so unsettled that we just want to go home and be back with our family," she said.

According to Associated Press, a second ship is headed to Honolulu. The Norwegian Cruise Line said one of its vessels that had been turned away by Fiji and New Zealand is expected to disembark in Honolulu on Sunday.

The Norwegian Jewel with about 2,000 passengers refueled in American Samoa but was not allowed to disembark at the Port of Pago Pago.