Maui Coronavirus Updates

Hawai‘i Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 Urges Implementation of Public Health Text Alerts

April 1, 2020, 7:21 AM HST
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Background photo courtesy Joint Information Center/Hawai’i Department of Health. Maui Now graphic overlay.

Members of the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 are urging the Ige administration and the Department of Health to “put in place as soon as possible a public health alert network system to provide critical information and reminders about COVID-19.”

The Special Committee says it feels that more aggressive messaging to the public is needed.  Members say that rules and guidelines for social distancing and sheltering-in-place “are not being seriously followed” in light of the growth of the pandemic in the US.

The committee reports that text alert systems have been implemented in two counties in Southern California–San Diego and Los Angeles.

“Public Safety Alerts are critical to remind both residents and visitors that in order to save lives, stay home,” the committee stated in a letter to Governor David Ige, dated March 31, 2020. “This includes reminding everyone that beaches, trails, recreation areas, and other public spaces are closed. Social distancing is one of the few tools currently available to fight the spread of the virus.”

The Special Committee points out in the letter that South Korea officials found that emergency texts sent three to five times a day were effective in reducing community spread, as the text messages detailed exact locations and movements of people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

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Regular reminders and instructions were also sent out early on on how to prevent the virus from spreading, with instructions on social distancing, hand washing, coughing etiquette and how to care for seniors.

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“Because of those efforts, South Korea has managed to significantly slow the number of new cases and flattened the curve,” committee members said.

Also in the letter, the Special Committee asks that Governor Ige — including the Department of Health and other appropriate members of his administration — to schedule a daily briefing to provide the public with information on COVID-19.

“This will help in assuring that the community is receiving the same information on a timely basis.  The committee requests a response on the strategy and timeline to establish this text alert system and the confirmation on scheduling a daily public briefing by 4 p.m., Wednesday, April 1,” with the Special Committee’s emphasis on timeliness in bold.

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The letter is signed by Senate Special Committee members Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, Senator Jarrett Keohokalole, Senator Michelle Kidani, Senator Donna Mercado Kim, Senator Sharon Moriwaki and Senator Kurt Fevella.

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