Governor Announces Multi-Layered Approach to Travel in Hawai‘i
Governor David Ige held a press conference today, providing perspective on the new cases reported in Hawai‘i saying the increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 was expected as normal activities resume along with the reopening of many businesses.
He said, “Most importantly we have the capacity to handle this level of cases as we still have low numbers…still the best in the country.” Governor Ige warned that more cases are expected as Hawai‘i gets closer to broader reopening of travel to the state.
He was joined by Dr. Bruce Anderson, Director, Department of Health who discussed long-term care (covered below); Hilton Raethel, President and CEO, Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i who also discussed long-term care and skilled nursing facility protection; and Dr. Cecilia Shikuma, Professor at John A. Burns School of Medicine who discussed testing capacity.
Top State Leaders Working on Multi-Layered Approach to Travel
With the reopening of interisland travel next Tuesday, Governor Ige and some of his top advisors are working on components necessary before opening up travel to and from the mainland and from foreign destinations.
- Lieutenant Governor Josh Green and DOH Administrator Bruce Anderson are leading a committee currently investigating testing methods for trans-Pacific travelers.
- Mike McCartney, the administrator of the Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism is working with the governor on exploring travel corridors.
- Hawai‘i Tourism Authority President and CEO Chris Tatum is leading a committee working on further guidelines for the visitor industry.
“We have a lot of details to work through. Above all we want to protect the health of all Hawai‘i residents and we’ll provide updates when the plan is ready,” Governor Ige said. He encouraged continued personal responsibility, including social distancing, use of face masks, frequent hand washing and staying at home if sick.
Department of Health:
Spike in O‘ahu Case Numbers – Links to Previously Identified Cases
Thirteen of 15 new cases of COVID-19 being reported on O‘ahu today are all related to four known cases or ongoing investigations. Ten of the cases are part of a family cluster in the same household and all the family members were previously in quarantine when someone in the family tested positive. Also, three of the positive cases are in communities where DOH is actively canvasing door-to-door to provide educational information and to offer testing. Of the new cases, nine are adults and six are pediatric cases. One case has been removed from the count due to retesting as a negative case.
Active Steps for Reducing Risk to Seniors in Long-Term Care
During the governor’s news briefing, DOH Administrator Dr. Bruce Anderson said,
We’ve been very fortunate in Hawai‘i, to have prevented outbreaks in our long-term care facilities. Healthcare providers have taken many important precautions to protect seniors in their care. This has not been without a cost, as families have not been able to physically visit their loved ones and this separation to protect our kupuna has been difficult for many of us.”
Anderson says skilled nursing facilities are receiving grants this month to purchase communications technology to help bridge this gap. DOH is working with long-term care facilities to ensure they have protective policies and procedures in place.
Anderson commented, “We have a team dedicated to preventing and responding to outbreaks in healthcare settings, including long-term care facilities. This team has been conducting infection control assessment and response meetings by phone since May 18 and have completed assessments on 37 facilities. We anticipate reaching all 48 skilled nursing facilities in the state by June 18. Through these meetings, we can answer facilities’ questions in detail, identify and address gaps, and provide technical assistance as they refine their COVID-response plans.” Building off this model, the team is also developing strategies to provide similar assistance and guidance to adult residential care homes and assisted living facilities, across the state.
Anderson concluded, “The department is continuing to guide and monitor care homes statewide and we are prepared and ready to investigate, control and contain any cases of COVID-19 that have not been prevented. Our long-term care facilities in Hawai‘i have done excellent work and continue to comply with guidance and work closely with the department when cases are identified.”
Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i Provides Updates
Hilton Raethel, the President and CEO of HAH highlighted the fact Hawai‘i has the lowest rate of COVID-19 infection in nursing homes of any state in the nation. At today’s news briefing he offered the following updates:
- Discovered through employer screening
- No direct contact with residents, quickly quarantined
- Visitation shut down
Long-term Care – Federal Guidance
- Guidance is tailored for Hawai‘i with low infection rates
- HAH works closely with DOH on sensible Hawai‘i-centric policies
Testing and Infections
- Better positioned for testing now compared to the beginning of the pandemic
- Significant costs for healthcare organizations
- 5,000 people in long term care facilities; only one resident had COVID-19 (exposed elsewhere)
Personal Protective Equipment
- Hawai‘i Healthcare Emergency Management maintains stockpiles for emergencies
- Working to secure additional PPE and medical supplies
- Want enough PPE for today and tomorrow
Rathel asked, that in order to keep the COVID-19 curve flat, people continue to practice social distancing, frequent hand washing, and mask wearing in public. He said, “You will help not just yourself, but all the people you love in these islands.”
Hawai‘i Tourism Authority:
1,655 Passengers Arrive on Thursday
Yesterday, a total of 1,655 people arrived in Hawai‘i including 568 visitors and 375 returning residents. There was a total of 19 arriving flights. The data includes those who arrived by air from out of state yesterday but does not show interisland travel.
Department of the Attorney General:
Family Released from Quarantine Today Implores Others to Follow the Rules
The most recent announcement of two visitors and a returning resident being arrested for violating Hawai‘i’s quarantine rule, prompted a Sacramento visitor, near the end of a 14-day quarantine, to post on a local media website.
“We have literally been locked up in our resort room…not even a peek into the hall. We are using online services for everything; grocery shopping and ordering out and delivery. We are staying positive as we chose to come here and have to respect the law and rules for the sake of people who live here and call Hawai‘i their home.”
He concluded, “When we leave quarantine, the careless acts of [a] few will put many at risk, including us. I’m happy to see stories of violators getting arrested. It will warn those who are careless to think twice, as there is someone watching and there are consequences.”
University of Hawai‘i:
Researchers Seek COVID-19 Patients for a Clinical Trial
Researchers at the University of Hawai’i John A. Burns School of Medicine, announced that they have opened the first clinical trial in Hawai‘i aimed at finding an effective treatment for patients with COVID-19.
Research patients will be placed on either a placebo (sugar pill) or telmisartan, a medication commonly used for blood pressure control. “We will test the hypothesis that much of the dangerous lung and heart effects of COVID-19 is caused by the virus’ ability to dysregulate the delicate balance in a hormone system in our body called the renin angiotensin system,” said Dr. Cecilia Shikuma, Professor of Medicine at JABSOM and the lead investigator for this study.
“Telmisartan lowers blood pressure by blocking the harmful effects of this hormone system, and we hope to find preliminary evidence that taking the drug will also prevent much of the harmful effects of the virus.” The research has UH Institutional Review Board approval to proceed. Dr. Shikuma adds that “It is an advantage that telmisartan is already FDA approved and much of the safety concerns of this drug is already known.” For study information, contact Cris Milne at 692-1335 or email [email protected]
Hawai‘i State Judiciary:
O‘ahu District Courts Reopen
State District Courts on O‘ahu reopened on Monday. Kauikeaouli Hale (Honolulu District Court on Alakea St.), Kāneʻohe District Court, ‘Ewa District Court, Wahiawā District Court, and Wai‘anae District Court are now open to individuals with official court business, such as court proceedings, and business with the Traffic Violations Bureau and Legal Documents Branch.
“Access to the courthouse is limited to those with official court business to ensure social distancing and protect the health and safety of our court users and staff,” said Melanie May, Deputy Chief Judge, District Court of the First Circuit.
Face coverings are required. If you have a fever, cough, or other respiratory symptoms; traveled in the past 14 days; or had prolonged contact with a person who has or is suspected to have COVID-19, you will not be allowed to enter the courthouse. Beginning June 16, the travel restriction will apply only to those who have traveled to O‘ahu from out of state.
The courthouses have implemented new measures to accommodate social distancing, including staging areas and queues to promote courthouse entry in an orderly fashion. Court users are encouraged to arrive extra early to allow enough time to park and, possibly, wait in line to get in. Areas to sit or stand are clearly marked.
Department of Land and Natural Resources:
Another Illegal Outdoor Party on Social Media
The DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement has again received reports of another party being promoted on social media at the Kāneʻohe sandbar (Ahu O Laka) for this weekend.
DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla said, “This is irresponsible and it’s potentially dangerous because of COVID-19 considerations. The postings are promoting illegal activity due to the number of people they suggest may be involved. Violations of boating rules, alcohol related laws and emergency rules and orders will be enforced by DOCARE officers.
O‘ahu has seen a spike in coronavirus cases the last few days and health experts say precautions, like social distancing and wearing masks while around other must continue to keep the infection curve flat. Redulla added, “Encouraging others to gather in a party like atmosphere, at a place that is limited in space, does not help the situation. It causes us to divert enforcement resources to monitor situations like these. No one should be promoting these types of activities or parties.”