Hawaii Updates:18 New Cases, 10 Test Positive At Hale Nani; 2nd Resident Arrested In Quarantine Case

Jun 18, 2020

Updated: 6/18/2020, 5:21 p.m.

The Hawaii Department of Health reported 18 new cases of COVID-19 today, all on Oahu. Fifteen of the cases are Hawaii residents; three others remain under investigation. All but one are adults.

State Epidemiologist Sarah Park said most of the cases are the result of community spread and only a handful have been travel-related.

"This spike in cases and other recent spikes have been expected as people begin to move around more freely and more businesses are reopening," Park said in a news release.

At Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a total of 10 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed, the state said today.

Two are workers at the state's largest skilled nursing facility and eight are residents.

The health department says it is actively monitoring the cluster, which is the largest the state has seen at a facility that serves the elderly.

All but one of the cases at the facility involve people who live in or work on a single infected unit. 

Thus far, 307 tests from elsewhere in the facility have come back negative. Staff and residents are undergoing repeat testing and the state expects additional cases over the next two weeks.

In April, a patient at Maui Memorial Medical Center was transferred to Hale Makua Kahului and subsequently tested positive, becoming the first nursing home resident to have been reported infected in the state. 

In another case, the state House of Representatives leaders confirmed that a person working at the Capitol tested positive for COVID-19. They say the person wore a mask at work and stayed home when symptoms developed so "the risk of infecction to others is low."

The state Legislature is scheduled to reconvene on Monday, although the Capitol building will remain closed to the public.

The state Joint Information Center also confirmed media reports of three employees of Doraku restaurant in Waikiki testing positive. The workers are from one household and the restaurant has been closed for cleaning, according to the reports. 

Today's increase in new cases follows Wednesday's 5 cases; Tuesday's 4 cases; Mondayʻs 8 cases; Sunday's 5 new cases, Saturday's 17 cases and Friday's 15 infections.

After adjusting the numbers based on updated information, the state reported as of today 762 total cases of COVID-19. The number of deaths stood at 17.

The case count for Oahu stands at 526, Maui County at 120, Hawaii County at 83 and Kauai County at 21. (Late Thursday, Kauai County reported one new case on the island, bringing its total to 22. The case, the first new case on the island since early April, will likely be added to the island totals on Friday.)

Twelve people had been diagnosed out of state. Some 640 people had been released from isolation.

State unemployment rate hits 22.6% in May

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reported today that the seasonally adjusted jobless rate for May hit 22.6% in May. April's comparable rate was revised to 23.8%.

Nationally, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 13.3% in May, down from 14.7% in April.

There were 490,700 in Hawaii who were unemployed statewide out of a labor force of 633,850.

Credit State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations

Second Hawaii resident arrested in quarantine violation case

Kailua resident Christopher M. Jergovic, 43, was arrested by state attorney general special agents outside his residence Monday for allegedly violating the state's mandatory travel quarantine order.

He is the second returning resident arrested in recent weeks on charges of violating quarantine. The state says witnesses saw Jergovic driving from his home three times after returning from work in Nigeria on June 6. He was also seen walking outside, the state said.

Bail for Jergovic was set at $2,000.

Supreme Court upholds DACA program, 350 Hawaii recipients spared

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the Trump administration wrongfully ended DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

About 650,000 DREAMers who came to the country illegally as children are protected from deportation for now.

In Hawaii, there are about 350 active DACA recipients, according to a 2019 federal report.

John Egan, the director of the immigration clinic at the University of Hawaii law school, says the Supreme Court decision benefits the recipients as well as the state.

“The Cato Institute, a fairly conservative, libertarian think tank in Washington estimated that the state of Hawaii would stand to benefit over the next ten years somewhere around 500 million dollars’ worth of economic positive impact from the DACA program,” he said.

That economic impact comes from DACA recipients who work, pay taxes and contribute to the economy.

While DACA is safe for now, Egan says that Congress needs to pass the DREAM Act, or the Development, Relief and Education to Alien Minors Act, to protect recipients in the long term.

-- HPR's Amy Nakamura

East Maui pushing ahead on fiber cable project

Rural areas often lack good broadband connection but one community is working to improve theirs.

In East Maui, there’s work underway to bring a fiber cable into Hana that can run up to Keanae, connecting the small villages along the way.

Hawaiian Telcom is looking to do that with a federal grant from the Connect America Fund. The program provides subsidies for providers to deliver broadband service to rural communities.

Bill Sides is a Hana resident and a member of the Hana Broadband Committee.

He explained to Bytemarks Café host Burt Lum what he hopes will result from the project:

“So with what they're putting in with this fiber optic backbone going all the way up to Keanae is an opportunity for us to get the kids up to the same level as the people are in Oahu as far as being in touch and and being able to go online as all the other kids do, and they won't be left in the dust technologically in the future," Sides said. "So that's what I'm kind of concerned with and looking at how we can tie the kids from these rural villages into the school system and in the event that we lose a bridge or having another pandemic.”

State Sen. J. Kalani English has been working with Hawaiian Telcom as well to ensure the fiber route will serve the most number of people, including those in Hawaiian homesteads.

To hear more about the project, visit the HPR's Bytemarks Café page.

Lanai Ferry resumes operations 

Residents can travel between Lanai and Maui with resumption of the Expeditions Lanai Ferry. The service restarted with safety protocols under Gov. David Ige’s latest proclamation.

The ferry will continue to operate its Monday, Wednesday and Friday schedule with two round trips each day from Lahaina and Manele.

All passengers are required to arrive an hour before the departure time to complete the state’s new travel and health form and screening. Ferry officials say they will cut off boarding 10 minutes prior to the departure time.

Reservations are required due to physical distancing guidelines, and facial coverings must be worn on boarding and while onboard.

More information can be found at go-lanai.com.

Rapid 'Ohia Death precautions needed after walking in forests

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is asking hunters, hikers and others walking in Hawaii forests to take steps to prevent the spread of Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death that is killing the native trees.

Wiping their boots, equipment and vehicles of soil and dirt and spraying these with a 70% alcohol solution can help control the fungus disease.

Yesterday's Hawaii Headlines: 3 More Hale Nani Residents Test Positive; City Boosts Business Aid Fund by $25M

"With our ability now to visit and hike on neighbor islands, it is more important than ever to remind people that they can accidentally spread diseases and weeds unless precautions are taken," said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. "As COVID-19 very effectively demonstrates, protecting our way of life and our natural resources in Hawai‘i requires everyone’s care and participation."  

Updated maps of where Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death has spread is available on the DLNR website.

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 COVID-19 developments and the state's phased reopening. You can call our talkback line at 808-792-8217. Or e-mail us at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.