LIHU‘E — Hawaii’s newly created Special Senate Committee on COVID-19 held its first meeting Thursday, as the state Department of Health confirmed six new cases of COVID-19.
Airport Division of the Department of Transportation agreed with the committee’s recommendation to include a new 14-day quarantine of any airline passengers and urged Governor David Ige to put the plan into action immediately.
The plan will require hiring or reassigning approximately 500 people and cost approximately $1 million per month.
While Kaua‘i remains at two cases, Hawai‘i Island is still at one case, O‘ahu is now at 18 cases and Maui is now at five cases, for a total of 26 confirmed cases in Hawai‘i.
Officials say the two individuals who tested positive on Kaua‘i are still recovering in isolation.
“The 10 today were results of extensive testing and analysis by private labs around the state,” said Dr. Bruce Anderson, DOH director.
“We have now over a thousand sample results over the past week or so. That’s contributing to our total database,” he said. “All of the cases as far as we know have a travel history or are individuals that have been exposed to someone that has been traveling.”
Anderson said there is no evidence of extensive community transmission in the state. DOH has completed a second round of testing as part of its surveillance program.
“We received no reports of any positive test among those individuals,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Josh Green tightened up recommendations Thursday, saying everyone should stay home with the exceptions of those getting food or seeking medical care.
He repeated some of Gov. David Igue’s suggestions Wednesday to stop the spread of COVID-19. Green also added a few of his own. Suggestions included limiting non-essential travel to Hawai‘i through April 30, quarantining anyone who flies into Hawai‘i for two weeks and completing isolation for every positive COVID-19 case.
Green also said Thursday the state continues to work with the National Guard to set up extra hospital support statewide, and is working toward airport screening, as well as ordering more masks and swabs.
Hawai‘i state Sen. Clarence K. Nishihara has been confirmed as having COVID-19, the first positive case at the Hawai‘i State Capitol building. The Legislature has suspended the current session in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In a Thursday memo about the confirmed case, Senate President Ron Kouchi recommended that all Senate offices close until further notice.
“Senator Clarence Nishihara has informed me that he tested positive for COVID-19. Senator Nishihara has informed me that he is awaiting contact from the Department of Health to begin investigative tracing of the virus,” Kouchi said in the memo.
Speaker of the House Scott Saiki also weighed in on the pandemic Thursday, sending the governor a letter of request for more immediate action.
In that letter, Saiki also recommended a quarantine for people arriving from outside Hawai‘i, that all nonessential travel be prohibited, and that all schools and childcare centers be closed. Saiki also recommended:
w Institution of an immediate statewide shut down for the next 15 days;
w Ordering all people in Hawai‘i to shelter in place for the next 15 days and take necessary steps to ensure that the supply chain for basic necessities — food, medicine, water, communications, gasoline, cargo and public safety — is secure;
w Ordering the securing and requisition of any needed hospital and medical supplies that are necessary to assist with the coming need to treat individuals due to COVID-19.
“The directives from the lieutenant governor and mayors are mere recommendations. As governor, you are the only person in the state who has the direct authority to institute these actions. I implore you to take immediate action for the health, safety and welfare of all the people of Hawai‘i,” Saiki said.
The state Department of Education announced public and charter schools will remain closed to students through Monday, April 6.
Here are some highlights of what to expect before school is reopened again:
w April 3: Custodians, principals and administrators return to work;
w April 4-5 (weekend): Custodians continue deep cleaning of campuses;
w April 6: Teachers return to work to prepare classrooms;
“The goal is to begin instruction on April 7 whether teachers will be at home or in their class,” said Dr. Christina Kishimoto, DOE superintendent.
”We are looking at different formats, like pamphlets of homework, distance learning and web hubs. We will be discussing these plans and will be prepared to make announcements in these next few weeks,” said Kishimoto.
The County of Kaua‘i’s curfew which Mayor Derek Kawakami announced begins today. The curfew will be in effect from 9 p.m. through 5 a.m. daily until further notice. To avoid a $5,000 penalty fee or a year in jail, county officials advise everyone to stay at home during the curfew hours.
Exceptions to this curfew include driving to or from home to work during the curfew hours, picking someone up from the airport and seeking medical attention. More information about the curfew and exceptions is available at kauai.gov.
Ige supports the mayors, he said, and stated his thoughts in a Thursday press release.
“The mayors understand the unique needs of their communities and are putting in place restrictions and guidance that best meet those needs,” the governor said.
”Their efforts align with CDC guidelines and the direction provided by the state Department of Health and the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency. They have my full support and commitment to continue to work cooperatively as we move forward in our efforts to fight COVID-19,” said Ige.
“One of the best ways to show aloha for each other at this critical time is to refrain from being in large gatherings and to keep a safe, healthy distance from each other,” said Anderson.
“You may be healthy, but others around you may not be as fortunate. By practicing social distancing, you’re limiting the potential for exposure to any illness in your household and protecting everyone in our community,” said Anderson.
”We all need to consider the health and wellbeing of others, especially seniors, those with preexisting health conditions and others whose health may be compromised.”
The Thursday DOH press release reiterated that individuals who are not sick should not be tested even if they have been exposed to COVID-19.
Individuals who are sick with respiratory illness (fever and cough or shortness of breath) and who are at a higher risk for severe respiratory infections (kupuna, those with chronic medical conditions including immunosuppression) should call their usual source of health care to discuss whether they should be tested for COVID-19 and/or other infections such as influenza.
According to the DOH:
w A provider’s referral is required to receive testing;
w Those without providers may call an urgent-care center or community clinic in their area.
Anyone having difficulty breathing should seek medical care immediately. If possible, call your health-care provider first.
The DOH recommends other people with mild illness should help protect the most vulnerable and conserve precious supplies by practicing social-distancing measures, monitoring their illnesses, and calling their health-care provider if their symptoms worsen or persist.
Stephanie Shinno, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.