Coronavirus in Hawai‘i: The State Reports its First COVID-19 Death, Interisland Travel Quarantine and Honolulu Police Chief Asks Drivers to Slow Down
Your daily update of everything you need to know related to COVID-19 on March 31.
Photo: David Croxford
Hawai‘i reported its first COVID-19 death on March 31. A private lab test came back positive for an elderly O‘ahu man with underlying medical issues. State health officials said 20 new confirmed cases brought the statewide total to 224, most on O‘ahu: 13 cases, or 6%, required hospitalization, 58 people have recovered. The state also received its first positive COVID-19 result from community screening tests. State health director Bruce Anderson said more than 9,000 tests have been done, giving Hawai‘i now one of the highest testing rates in the nation. Anderson says that one positive community test sample likely indicates so far community transmission of the disease is very limited as people take seriously the stay-at-home mandates. See how the cases break down by zip code in these new state maps.
There are 244 intensive care unit beds across the state available for critical adult cases, according to Lt. Gov. Josh Green. More than 42% are filled now; only six with COVID-19 patients. He says people can wear masks to help slow the spread of germs but emphasized that a mask is not an alternative to social distancing because it will “keep your germs in, it will not protect you from other germs.”
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says “Absolutely no one should be coming to Hawai‘i to vacation right now.” He says three people flew here and went directly to homeless shelters and a family of four without hotel reservations had to be assisted. Caldwell also called for state government to reconsider a plan to release 426 inmates into a community that can’t offer jobs or help while in lockdown. And Caldwell ordered private golf courses, tennis clubs and other private sporting centers to shut down April 1 to cut down on unneeded social gatherings. And he emphasized that bars would remain closed and restaurants in dine-out-only mode through at least April 30.
The 14-day quarantine for interisland travelers goes into effect at midnight tonight. Those who must travel to perform an essential function, including those providing and seeking medical care, must fill out a special form and must wear appropriate protective gear—primarily masks—and follow social distancing requirements.
Honolulu buses to switch to reduced schedule tomorrow, April 1. More info oneoahu.org
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard says the police department is patrolling but not setting up roadblocks or asking for letters to prove that people are on essential tasks. She says officers have issued 1,500 warnings, 180 citations and made nine arrests for people that have refused to leave parks or other offenses including speeding on empty roads: “We’re just asking people to just slow down.”
State labor department is adding staff and more hours to help with the unemployment surge. Up to 45 employees will help with new phone banks on Saturdays and holidays. Some of the additional 38 people will be volunteers from state Senate staff, the labor director told a meeting of the State Senate COVID-19 special committee. Director Scott Murakami says calls for assistance totaled 24,523 on March 24, compared to 183 a month ago.People who need help with filing an unemployment claim may call (833) 901-2252.
Public text alert system? The state Senate COVID-19 committee sent a letter late today asking the governor to “put in place as soon as possible a public health alert network system to provide critical information and reminders about COVID-19.” The letter urged the more aggressive messaging, used in San Diego, Los Angeles and South Korea, to slow disease spread. And the senators called on Ige to schedule a daily public update briefing.
Kupuna Kare, a new grassroots network, plans to help coordinate food and non-emergency supply distribution to seniors. This includes groceries, prepared food, toiletries and household goods. Volunteers will be matched with kupuna in their neighborhoods. For more information, visit kupunakare.com or call (808) 469-0054.
Windward Mall will re-open its farmers markets on April 1. Windward Mall announced its farmers markets will operate Wednesdays and Sundays, beginning tomorrow. Operator Hanawahine Farms will implement safety measures and social distancing in the mall parking lot at the corner of Haiku Road and Kamehameha Highway. The markets link farmers to consumers: Wednesdays from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.; and Sundays from 9:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.
UH campuses announced move to all summer courses online. Summer school at the 10 campuses of the University of Hawaiʻi will be held online because of COVID-19. The first session runs from May 26 to July 3, and the second session runs from July 6 to Aug. 14, though exact dates may vary slightly from campus to campus. By May 15, the university will decide whether in-person classes will be conducted for second summer session depending on the status of the health crisis, officials said.