LIVE STREAM: Governor David Ige COVID-19 Update, April 29, 2:30 p.m.
Video courtesy: Governor David Ige / Facebook
Governor David Ige provides an update on COVID-19 impacts in Hawaiʻi. He is joined by Lieutenant Governor Josh Green and Dr. Bruce Anderson, Director, Hawai‘i Dept. of Health who will discuss contact tracing.
“Hawai‘i, We Are Almost There”
Governor David Ige was cautiously optimistic in remarks delivered at a news briefing this afternoon. “Your hard work, sacrifices, and diligence are paying off,” the governor said. For the past ten days, the state has experienced six or fewer new cases of COVID-19. “The curve has flattened…until there is a vaccine or cure we are not out of the woods, and we still need to remain extremely vigilant,” Governor Ige said. He pointed towards Kauaʻi Mayor Derick Kawakami’s leadership and the people of the Garden Island for becoming the first island with no new or active cases in two weeks.
Work to Relax Restrictions and Mandates Underway
Governor Ige said state and county leaders are looking at easing restrictions and reopening the local economy. He reiterated his earlier pledge that this will happen in phases, “based on health data, science and guidance from healthcare advisors.” He said he is working with county mayors to look at ways “to scale back mandates in a cautious, safe and coordinated manner.” However, the governor warned, “Please keep in mind that there is a widespread expectation of a second wave of cases, not just here, but on the mainland and worldwide. If we start to see a surge, some of the mandates may have to be reinstated.”
Help for Self-Employed and Independent Contractors
The governor announced the launch of a new system to specifically help people are are not typically eligible for regular unemployment benefits. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA was made available through the federal CARES Act. As it is a new program, it comes with new requirements and Governor Ige describes it as a difficult process. He said that that starting this week people can begin to submit applications for PUA relief funds.
Additional Help for Small Businesses
Payments to businesses under the Payroll Protection Program, which has brought more than $2 billion in forgivable loans to the state, will not be subject to the State General Excise Tax. Governor Ige said this will help ensure that funds stay in the hands of small businesses so they can keep people on their payrolls and cover some of their operational expenses. While the state can administratively waive GET, it can’t do the same for income taxes. So in keeping with the federal stance that PPP loans are excluded from federal gross income tax, the Department of Taxation will be asking the Hawai‘i State Legislature to pass legislation that permits the state to conform to federal rules. State officials say this is expected to provide some relief to the more than 11,000 small businesses that have received PPP loans, with a second round of funding that started on Monday.
Lt. Governor: “The Curve is Flat – You Did It!”
During remarks at today’s media briefing Lt. Governor Josh Green thanked everyone in Hawai‘i for doing a great job in practicing social distancing and taking other measures which have greatly flattened the curve of new COVID-19 infections in the state.
“We are sad to lose 16 of our loved ones and our hearts are with their families and friends,” Green said. He added, “Fortunately Hawai‘i is among a few states with the lowest mortality rate. The fact that we share this distinction with really rural states like Wyoming, Utah, North and South Dakota, is a great sign for Hawai‘i.”
The Lt. Governor cautioned the public not to become complacent, saying it is likely there will be additional deaths. While the curve has been flattened (four new cases today), people already in the hospital or have chronic conditions could still succumb to COVID-19, even as the number of cases and active disease decreases.
Green, the governor’s healthcare liaison, shared the following statewide hospital numbers:
Four Additional COVID-19 Cases Reported
Four new cases of coronavirus, included three O‘ahu adults and one Hawai‘i resident diagnosed outside of Hawai‘i have been reported by DOH. This brings the total of COVID-19 cases in Hawai‘i to 613 since Feb. 28, 2020. As of today, 321 cases are travel-associated, 236 are community-associated, and 56 with risk factors unknown at this time.
Maui Memorial Cluster Update
As of Tuesday, there are a total of 59 COVID-19 positive cases at Maui Memorial Medical Center. DOH is continuing to monitor this cluster which includes 38 staff and 21 patients.
Enhanced Sentinel Surveillance Plan
Dept. of Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson announced today that DOH is preparing to publicly release its comprehensive plan on Disease Surveillance and Investigation. The plan involves the medical community, schools, businesses, community health centers, and clinical laboratories. Anderson said, “Strenghtening our contact tracing capacity will also be key in implementing effective disease containment and control of COVID-19.” DOH is using technology to help streamline the process of contacting positive cases and conducting investigations.
New Contact Tracing Digital Tool
DOH is also close to rolling out a new digital tool to follow-up with people who’ve had close contact with a positive case. People will be able to use the application to provide information on their health status and transmit the information securely to DOH. Health officials say this new application has been used successfully in other states, and DOH Director Dr. Bruce Anderson said, “We are looking forward to incorporating this application for disease investigation in Hawai‘i.”
Hawai‘i Tourism Authority:
494 Out-of-State Passengers Arrive on Tuesday
On Tuesday, April 28, 494 people arrived in Hawai‘i including 121 visitors and 177 residents. There was a total of 13 arriving flights. There were no trans-Pacific flights to Maui on Tuesday.
Department of Transportation Updates:
Update on Enhanced Airport Verification Process
The enhanced passenger verification process continues at Hawaiʻi airports. A Washington man flew to Honolulu without a reservation or means to pay for lodging, so he was sent back to Seattle Monday night. Another person also flew back to Seattle Tuesday. Upon landing in Hawaiʻi passengers are having their temperature taken, their contact information and reservations verified, and they must sign a document acknowledging they understand it is a criminal offense if they disobey the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine order.
Update on Pride of America
The Pride of America has reduced the number of crew on the ship to approximately 150 people. The remaining crew will sail with the ship when it departs for Oregon to enter dry dock. The scheduled departure date is anticipated for June 20. The ship has maintained communication with the Department of Health, which reports no new cases and the few symptomatic persons have tested negative for COVID-19. The ship has nearly completed two incubation periods from the last exposure. The vessel will remain docked at Pier 11 at Honolulu Harbor until it departs.