The Latest: Navy Finds No Motive In Pearl Harbor Shooting; COVID Hospitalizations Continue To Drop

Sep 29, 2020

Updated: 9/29/2020, 12:53 p.m. A Navy investigation into the Pearl Harbor shooting in December found no motive for the rampage. The gunman killed two civilians, injured another and took his own life.

In a redacted report released today, the Navy said Gabriel Romero, a 22-year-old machinist's mate from Texas, acted alone in the shooting.

 

The Navy maintains that no one could have reasonably predicted that Romero would have committed murder and suicide.

 

But it said compliance with its arms policies should have flagged Romero as someone needing rescreening as an armed watchman.

 

It also said health care professionals put undue emphasis on patient confidentiality -- particularly when sailors have access to weapons.

 

Vice Chief of Naval Operations R.P. Burke called for the report's recommendations to be enacted in a year to help prevent similar shootings.
 

Where we stand

The Hawaii Department of Health today reported two new deaths from COVID-19 and 87 new cases. The latest statewide COVID-19 case count brings the total number of infections to 12,290. Deaths stand at 134. 

There have now been 11,106 cases on Oahu, 703 on Hawaii Island, 390 for Maui County, and 59 on Kauai. Three cases were removed from the Honolulu count due to updated information. Thirty-two residents have been diagnosed out of state. 

The seven-day average positivity rate stood at 2.9% statewide yesterday. The county rates ranged from 4.2% for Oahu to 0.1% for Maui County.

New coronavirus cases and the positivity rate have generally been declining in the state, contributing to calls for the state to further reopen.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who was back at his office after contracting COVID-19 and  quarantining for two weeks, said yesterday's 150 COVID-19 hospitalizations were sharply lower from as many as 318 hospitalizations a month ago.

He pointed to the mortality rate, which is on an upward trajectory this month. Still, Green said the state is doing well with more contact tracers and testing.

He also said the Oct. 15 pre-flight program, that will waive the travel quarantine for those who test negative for COVID-19, will be a "competent, usable program," although reports questioning whether testing partners such as CVS are ready have emerged.

For the third day running, there were no new deaths reported yesterday at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, where 26 veterans have died and 106 residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Hilo Medical Center said the latest round of testing at the veterans home returned no new positive cases for residents or staff.

The recent positive news from the veterans home followed work by a team of about 20 infection control and other specialists who were brought in from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help deal with the outbreak. 

Both the VA and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency recently issued highly critical reports on the operations at the veterans home, detailing deficiencies in infection control practices and patient management that contributed to the fatal outbreak.

Following release of the reports, Avalon Health Care Group was replaced as the contracted operator of the state nursing home. But the management transition from Avalon to the East Hawaii Region of Hawaii Health Systems Corp., the semi-independent state agency that oversees the public hospitals, will take several months. 

UH, city launch job training program 

A new initiative aims to help Oahu residents most impacted by COVID-19 get back on their feet through free job training courses.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell and University of Hawaii president David Lassner announced the Oahu Back to Work program at a press conference yesterday.

The city is committing $3 million in federal CARES Act funds to train residents in fields that need workers now or in the near future.

Lassner said the program is open to those who have been laid off, been furloughed or suffered a reduction in hours because of the pandemic.

"Our goal is to reach 2,000 Oahu residents with training opportunities – with skills that they need for jobs that are open, or are anticipated to be open," Lassner said. "And we’re also trying to provide not just the specific skills that people need for those jobs, but also a set of broader employment skills that will help them in their first job, during and after the pandemic, but also moving on in the future."

More than 70 courses will be available through the program, which runs from Oct. 5 to Dec. 18.

More information can be found at the Oahu Back To Work website

Hawaii ranks low among states for teachers

A new study ranks Hawaii as the 42nd worst state in the nation for teachers.

The study looked at two main categories: career opportunity, including salaries, and work environment that covers factors like school system quality.

Jill Gonzales with Wallethub, the personal finance website that conducted the research, said teachers in Hawaii have the fourth lowest annual salary, adjusted for the cost of living.

"So that's obviously something that has been front of mind for years now, some type of salary increase," she said. "We're also seeing that the income growth potential is simply not there. The 10-year change in teacher salaries is very low."

She said the academic and work environment also could be better, with an improved digital learning plan and access to instructional materials to ensure all kids can successfully and safely learn while out of the classroom.

The study also found that Hawaii ranked well below average for teacher retention, meaning there’s a high rate of turnover.

Hawaii’s low ranking comes as Gov. David Ige is raising the possibility of  furloughs for state workers, including teachers. The move would result in a pay cut of 9 percent over four years to help with a budget shortfall caused by COVID-19.

The state Department of Education did not immediately comment on Hawaii's ranking.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo

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