Hawaii Updates: Ige Inclined To Keep Safer-At-Home Order Through June; Kalihi Cluster Could Grow

May 14, 2020

Updated: 5/14/2020, 5 p.m.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said today he’s inclined to extend his “safer-at-home” order through the end of June to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Ige said he also plans to maintain the state’s requirement that travelers arriving in the state observe 14 days of quarantine.

The governor explained his intentions during a talk streamed live on Facebook.

Ige said he would be examining allowing more businesses to reopen, including hair salons, barber shops and restaurants with dine-in service.

These activities carry more risk for spreading the virus than activities already allowed, like golfing and take-out restaurants.

Ige said the state would look at guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information on how to keep employees and customers safe.

--Associated Press

Where Hawaii stands, cluster in Kalihi housing identified

Hawaii recorded no new coronavirus cases today, another sign that the curve continues to flatten. The state health department reported the number of recorded cases is at 637 after an adjustment and deaths stand at 17. The case count for Oahu is at 414, Maui County at 117, Hawaii Island at 75 and Kauai County at 21. There are 10 cases diagnosed out of state.

The three new cases from Wednesday are part of a family cluster of seven cases at the Kalihi Valley Homes, a public housing complex on Kamehameha IV Road. Health Director Bruce Anderson said a dozen other people are showing symptoms.

Anderson said it is challenging situation because residents are in close quarters, some do not speak English and interpreters had to be hired.

He said he recalls the department has been working with management of the facility for quite some time to inform the residents of their risk. The first cases were identified at least a couple of weeks ago.

"[They] were identified as a high concern given the relatively crowded conditions that exist there and extended family situations," he said.

He said there is a perception among residents that getting a test will give one the virus and so people have avoided taking the test. The department is trying to educate the residents, and making sure they stay in their apartments.

"This is a not an intractable situation but a very difficult one to work with, one of the most challenging...since we started this outbreak," he said.

City to open sports fields, sports courts tomorrow

Honolulu residents will be able to use outdoor sports fields and courts starting tomorrow.

It’s part of the latest version of the city’s emergency order issued by Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Under the new order, residents will be allowed to use public and private outdoor sport facilities for one-on-one sports and exercise.

This includes singles tennis, singles pickle ball, yoga and tai-chi.

Drive-in services – such as spiritual and religious events – will also be allowed, but with special guidelines.

Participants will have to attend in an enclosed vehicle – and remain in that vehicle during the entire event.

Caldwell will be holding a press conference this afternoon – to discuss more details of the new order.

Senate committee, Caldwell debate quarantine enforcement

The state Senate's COVID-19 committee and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell are locking horns over who should be responsible for enforcing the mandatory 14-day quarantine for tourists and returning residents.

The committee sent Caldwell a letter dated May 12 saying members have received reports from the public about travelers blatantly violating the quarantine orders.

"This is particularly frustrating to members of the public who are complying with the stay-at-home/stay-safe declarations imposed by the State and county in good faith," the committee stated.

The members said they also received reports that the city has "avoided addressing these public concerns of non-compliance with regularity."

The committee asked that the Caldwell administration make the enforcement of Hawaii's quarantine orders a priority by investigating and arresting people who violate the orders, including returning residents and vacation rental operators.

The letter was signed by senators Donovan Dela Cruz, Jarrett Keohokalohe, Michelle Kidani, Donna Mercado Kim, Sharon Moriwaki and Kurt Fevella.

In a letter yesterday, Caldwell responded by defending the Honolulu Police Department's enforcement of the quarantine law "based on credible evidence within the confines of the law without violating people's civil rights or by profiling." The mayor said the police have issued thousands of warnings and citations and have arrested violators "without any assistance from the State."

The mayor said since the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is the entry point for all arrivals, that is where enforcement should begin. Visitors should not be allowed out of the airport unless it can be verified that they are staying at traditional hotels rather than vacation rentals, he said.

"There appears to be a lack of oversight controls at the airport," the mayor said. He said while the attorney general, public safety and transportation departments and Hawaii Tourism Authority have roles in the airport quarantine operations, it's unclear which is taking overall responsibility.

He noted that the forms passed out at the airport to gather such information as lodging addresses are not being completed or fully verified and there is little follow-up when visitors leave the airport.

Caldwell said airport personnel are directing visitors to the Provisional Outdoor Screening and Triage (POST) facility, the temporary shelter camp for local homeless to be screened during the pandemic. It's not a place for visitors to quarantine but 15 people have shown up there looking for a place to stay.

The mayor said it's clear that when Las Vegas reopens and Hawaii residents flock there, "the airport operations will not be able to handle the mandatory quarantine which will still apply to returning residents."

To address the problems raised by the senators, the mayor recommended that visitors be quarantined at a designated hotel or immediately sent back to where they came from, bearing all of the expenses. "We hope you will rectify these matters," the mayor said.

The senators and mayor have at least one point of agreement: they want to see the courts take a harder line against alleged quarantine violators.

The mayor said the police have arrested visitors for violations, but when they are processed, they are released by the courts on their own recognizance because the judiciary has been overseeing an inmate release program to lower the population in the jails because of the threat of COVID-19.

The HPD is working with the courts to keep those arrested in custody to avoid their release, Caldwell said. 

The committee had sent a letter to Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald asking that he direct judges that they not presume they should release the quarantine violators unless an "appropriate amount of bail" is posted and conditions such as ankle bracelets are imposed.

In his letter responding to the committee, the chief justice said he appreciates the concerns of the members and that Gov. David Ige had raised similar issues.

"As I indicated in my response to Governor Ige's letter, bail must be set on an individualized basis consistent with constitutional and statutory requirements, which do not authorize bail schedules," he said.

He said he also explained that in regard to bail, judges can discuss expedited arraignment and pleas for alleged quarantine violation cases with the attorney general, public defender and law enforcement, taking into account any county concerns.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

Senate committee approves budget, but wants to see Ige's plan for economic recovery

The head of the Senate money committee says lawmakers worked on the state budget without knowing how the Ige administration plans to get Hawaii on the path to economic recovery.

The committee yesterday approved a version of the operating budget that shores up an expected $1 billion revenue shortfall due to COVID-19.

The committee also advanced a $5 billion capital improvement spending plan.

Ways and Means Committee Chair Donovan Dela Cruz says it wasn’t easy drafting the budget.

“What’s been difficult I think for all of us is that we really don’t have a phased approach in planning on what’s next," he said. "So when we come back in June, we’re still going to have to look at what are going to be our economic recovery projects."

Dela Cruz said if the commitee had more communication from some of the state departments on what they want to see to get the economy moving, it would have been helpful.

"So we hope that we can get that information from the administration so we can get the economy moving,” he said. 

Gov. David Ige said his administration is still working on a recovery plan and asked for patience.

The full Senate is scheduled tomorrow to take a final vote on the budget before it’s sent to the House.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

Green proposes voluntary COVID-19 tests for arrivals

Under a program he's calling "Travel with Aloha," Lt. Gov. Josh Green is suggesting that visitors and returning residents agree to get tested for the coronavirus within 72 hours of departing for the state.

Those who decline would undergo additional screening and testing when they arrive at state airports.

“This could cut several hours from their vacation or return home and they could be required to undergo a possible 14-day mandatory quarantine,” he said. 

On Tuesday, 852 people arrived in Hawai‘i, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. They included 264 visitors and 321 residents. Others included 117 crew members, 104 intended residents and 46 transiting travelers.

Kauai mayor opening up beaches to more activities

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami says people can use the beaches for more than exercise starting tomorrow under a pilot program that runs for two weeks.

"While beaches are open for exercise, such as swimming or walking, we realize that continuous exercise is not possible for our kupuna or disabled individuals, or families with young children," the mayor said. 

In opening up the beaches for gatherings, the mayor said the following restrictions would apply:

• Groups must be part of the same household and should not exceed 10 people.

• Any people on the beach who are not part of the same household must comply with social distancing requirements, with the exception of caregivers escorting a dependent.

• Beaches and sand areas can only be used a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset unless a person is shoreline fishing or engaged in permitted outdoor exercise.

• All other restrictions under Gov. David Ige's safer at home order must be followed, including quarantine restrictions.

Kauai's lifting of beach restrictions was approved by Ige and runs until Friday, May 29.

"The intent of this two-week period is to monitor our ability to open our beaches while following CDC guidelines, and to maintain social distancing with people who are not in our same household," the mayor said. "As we get closer to the end of the two-week pilot we will re-evaluate if we can or should continue this Local Rule."

Meanwhile, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino is awaiting approval from the governor to expand access to beaches and parks on his island beginning on Saturday.

The mayor plans to open county parks and beach parks, including select tennis and pickleball courts, to activities from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. A list of the parks to be opened will be posted on the Department of Parks and Recreation section of the Maui County website.

Maui food distribution scheduled today

Food will be distributed in Central Maui at the War Memorial Gymnasium parking lot, 700 Halia Nakoa St., from 10 a.m. today.

The county plans to distribute about 300 bags of food on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Access to the gym parking lot is through a right turn from Kanaloa Avenue onto Halia Nakoa Street. Left turns into Halia Nakoa are not allowed.

The food is intended for those who are struggling due to job losses and financial hardship brought on by the coronavirus emergency.

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.