The state has been surveying places like the Hawaii Convention Center as possible emergency medical sites to prepare for a spike in coronavirus cases. But it isn’t clear when these facilities would be constructed.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began evaluating alternative care sites across the state last week.
The Army Corps teams looked at locations like the convention center, the Neal S. Blaisdell Center on Oahu and other sites on the Neighbor Islands, including hotels.
The evaluations will determine the amount of work it would take to convert a location into a hospital site and what the cost might be.
But while the numbers of coronavirus cases are growing, Gov. David Ige says it isn’t time to start building yet because hospitals have been coping so far.
"At this point in time, the utilization have been below those areas that would require us to initiate alternative care sites," he said at a press conference yesterday. "But we constantly are monitoring what the utilization is and we would be looking at establishing these alternative care sites as we approach the capacity."
According to the state’s health planning and development agency, Hawaii’s hospitals run at an occupancy rate of about 65 percent, its most recent data from 2018 and before the influx of coronavirus patients.
Still, Ige says the state doesn't have an exact threshold for hospitals to exceed before the building of alternative care sites would be triggered.
"We definitely are looking at what the lead time would be to convert a site," he said. The state has a wide range of options, he said. Tent facilities could be constructed in a few days while modifying a hotel to be used as a hospital would take more time.
— HPR's Ashley Mizuo
Trouble paying rent? Talk to your landlord
State officials are advising residents who cannot make their rent to talk to their landlords.
That is one piece of advice from the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' Office of Consumer Protection.
The agency is providing guidance to renters and landlords about Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamations, which were issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Certain provisions in the state laws have changed, such as the landlord-tenant code.
Stephen Levins, Office of Consumer Protection executive director, says so long as the proclamation is in effect, and there is no breach in the lease agreement, renters can stay in their units.
"The tenant really needs to have a discussion with the landlord about their situation. If they’re having financial difficulties, talk it over with the landlord, see if they can reach some kind of accommodation," said Levins.
"The other thing that the tenant should do is to inquire as to whether the landlord has a mortgage that’s back by the federal government. Because under the CARES Act, that was just passed by Congress, there’s something in there that basically gives tenants who are renting from landlords who have these kinds of mortgages, a moratorium for evictions until really the end of July."
Levins says landlords can check online if their mortgage is backed by the federal government. Information and resources can be found on the department's website.
— HPR's Casey Harlow
Where Hawaii stands
Hawaii's coronavirus case count jumped yesterday to 258, according to the state health department's latest update. The number of positive and presumptive positive cases represents an increase of 34 from yesterday. Oahu now has a total of 182 coronavirus cases, Maui 26, Kauai 12 and the Big Island 18.
Thirteen cases are pending county of diagnosis or residency and two residents were diagnosed out of state. Fifteen of the total cases have required hospitalization.
The Hawaii Department of Health said a person who had died was diagnosed with coronavirus. The Oahu man was described as elderly with underlying medical conditions.
Health Director Bruce Anderson said the death was consistent with coronavirus and that the man had traveled to Las Vegas, among the cities with high rates of infection.
Among yesterday's new cases was a child. According to Hawaii News Now, a second firefigher has tested positive at the Honolulu Fire Department's Kalihi Uka station.
Hawaii is seeing more COVID-19 cases of community spread and fewer that are travel-connnected as the restrictions on visitors to the island approaches its second week.
Anderson said today that health officials expected the coronavirus case numbers to go up for a while before they begin declining. Anderson said officials are looking at a number of models to project when cases will peak and that they range from a few weeks to a few months.
He said Hawaii is early on in the course of epidemic and "I expect it will get worse before it gets better." Hawaii can expect more deaths because the state has an older population, he added.
Anderson said he's comfortable saying the state has not seen widespread community transmission, but added social distancing orders need to be followed.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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