Coronavirus in Hawai‘i: Cases Creep Up to 517, Honolulu Mayor Urges More Fabric Masks, SBA Approves 1.6 Billion Dollars in Loans
Your daily update of everything you need to know related to COVID-19 on April 14.
Hawai‘i’s statewide coronavirus count edged up to 517, with nine cases reported here in the Islands—eight residents and one visitor—and four residents who are currently out of state making up the 13 new cases, according to state health officials. Another 18 people were released from isolation, bringing the total released since Feb. 28 to 333. One case involved someone under 18 while the others were adults: six on O‘ahu, two on Maui and one on the Big Island. The number of deaths remained at nine.
5,000 pounds of food. As a result of a new partnership with the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau, the first delivery was made of fresh local food today to help the Hawai‘i Foodbank deal with the increased need caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The first shipment included bok choy, squash and long beans from O‘ahu and papayas and sweet potatoes from Hawai‘i Island. To help keep people fed and Hawai‘i’s farmers and ranchers operating, the Hawai‘i Foodbank has committed to purchase $200,000 in local agricultural products for its food assistance programs. Several foundations are helping support the initiative, including the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Hawai‘i Community Foundation, Ulupono Initiative, and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
Cluster in Kona. State health director Bruce Anderson noted the cluster of cases around two McDonald’s restaurants at Kona Commons and Walmart in Kailua-Kona appeared to have affected seven employees and five family members, but no customers. The restaurant remains closed and is being sanitized, he said. The 12 people who tested positive are in isolation and exposed employees without symptoms are self-quarantined. Anderson said he does not believe this outbreak poses a risk to the general public because the restaurant was taking necessary physical distancing measures to protect customers.
Dozens of cases at Maui Memorial Medical Center. Anderson said his department is continuing to aggressively investigate every case at Maui Memorial Medical Center after 34 people tested positive for COVID-19. He said six pallets of additional supplies including personal protective equipment sent by the state to help protect health care workers.
More face covering. Mayor Kirk Caldwell says, starting next Monday, the city will be telling everyone who is conducting essential business that includes interaction with the public to wear a cloth face covering. That means that people who are riding TheBus or the Handi-Van should be wearing fabric masks. Caldwell says he hopes people will use the advance notice to make sure they get a mask so no one needs to be turned away. Asked about enforcement, he says he expects there may be some warnings given but ignoring the order could result in people being charged with a misdemeanor offense. Caldwell says there are certain exceptions when a mask should not be used: going to the bank or financial institution, even the ATM; in your car, in offices with social distancing without interaction with the public and people suffering from pre-existing medical conditions like asthma. He reminded residents that the face covering can be a scarf, a wraparound or some kind of bandanna to help slow the spread of the disease. “It’s another layer of protection.”
Mask up. Businessman Robert Kurisu of every1nehawaii.com says the organization has donated 100,000 masks as of this week. He encouraged anyone who needs a mask to go to the site to learn how to get one before Friday afternoon.
Billions for small businesses. Ige had some good news for businesses hard-hit by the economic fallout. He said 8,426 small businesses have been approved for Small Business Administration Loans under the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program, with more than $1.6 billion set aside for Hawai‘i businesses so far.
Volunteer for medical service? Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i, announced he’s working with the health department to get volunteers to register with the medical reserve corps, which would be ready for a potential surge in cases. He says people are needed in medical and nonmedical roles: physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, emergency medical technicians and more. To find out more go to NLK.doh.hawaii.gov.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green says 19,591 individuals have been tested and the number of cases the state has had is a reflection of the community working together. “Instead of having 517 cases, we would have had 5,000 cases,” Green said. “Do not let your guard down.” The city is sponsoring more pop-up COVID-19 testing from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 18 at Polynesian Cultural Center, Kahuku; April 19 at Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park; and April 20 at Koko Head District Park. Caldwell said those tests are targeted to people who believe they’ve been exposed and are willing to self-quarantine until their results come back.
People still arriving by air. The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority reported that 691 people arrived yesterday in Hawai‘i, including 164 visitors and 205 residents. By comparison, at the same time last year, nearly 30,000 passengers arrived in Hawai‘i daily. The state’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine started on March 26 for all passengers arriving in Hawai‘i from out of state. The quarantine order was expanded on April 1 to include interisland travelers.