Hawaii recorded one new coronavirus cases today, continuing a run of days with zero or few additional cases and spurring the moves to reopen the economy. Despite that, the quarantine order has been extended.
The state health department reported the number of recorded cases at 641; deaths stand at 17. The case count for Oahu is at 415, Maui County at 117, Hawaii Island at 78 and Kauai at 21. There are 10 cases diagnosed out of state.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige has extended the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for arriving visitors and returning residents through June 30, including for interisland travel. The quarantine was set to expire at the end of this month.
A moratorium on residential evictions will also continue through June as the state continues to struggle economically while flattening the curve with zero or few new cases of the coronavirus.
Business reopenings and resumption of activities are continuing across the state, although each county can decide with the governor’s approval when to open certain industries.
On Maui, for example, Mayor Michael Victorino says hair and nail salons can resume business on May 25 under safety guidelines:
• Employees and customers must wear face coverings that can only be removed when trimming near the ears.
• No walk-ins. Only appointments are allowed.
• No blow drying will be allowed nor face-to-face services, such as beard trims, waxing or facials.
• Customers will need to wait outside with social distancing until their appointments.
• Workers must be temperature screened and anyone above 99 degrees will need to be sent home.
• Salons will need to keep daily logs of the days and times when customers come in and their contact information.
• Workstations must be spaced six feel apart and salons should consider divider shields and alternative work schedules.
• For nail salons, plexiglass or similar shields must be placed between the manicure technician and the client. Pedicure bowls must be disassembled and disinfected daily.
• Capes, smocks and towels must be single-use, either disposable or washed and dried.
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On Kauai, Mayor Derek Kawakami opened beaches to expanded activities with social distancing measures on Friday. He said lifeguards reported 14,000 people flocked to the beaches.
“For the most part, people were following the guidelines in place. However, there were concerns with people who are not in the same household who were hanging together on the beaches and in the pavilions,” the mayor said. Some held BBQs and potlucks that are prohibited.
“We want to continue to keep our beaches open. We want to continue to reopen businesses and activities. But in order to do that, we have to be committed to keep each other safe while we move more freely in our community,” he said.
The Legislature is wrapping up work on the state budget to shore up a $1 billion shortfall caused by COVID-19’s impact on the economy.
Lawmakers are using federal funds and loans that will exceed the state’s debt limit to help balance the budget and pay for building projects.
That covers the problem in the short-term without furloughs and cuts to services. But lawmakers are already looking ahead.
Donovan Dela Cruz, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, says he expects a steep drop in April tax collections, and that will influence the state’s next steps.
“As long as tourism stays the way it’s at, where we’re going to have the quarantine in place and the numbers are low, we’re going to have to depend on the federal government for some assistance,” he said.
“We’re going to have to move, we can try to continue to look at some special funds. And that’s where what the governor proposed — either strategic cuts we’re going to have to look at or some other measures like the governor proposed.”
The governor earlier had suggested pay cuts of about 20 percent, but government worker unions pushed back. Last week, he said the cuts would be a last resort.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported a sharp increase in arrivals to the islands on Sunday.
Some 1,073 people came to the state, including 272 visitors, 400 returning residents, 158 crew members, 51 exempted from quarantine by the state, 57 military members, 85 who said they plan to relocate to Hawaii, and 50 transiting travelers.
If you measure the impact of COVID-19 by the number of cases and fatalities, Hawaii has not been hit as hard as many other states.
The economic cost has been high here, especially in terms of jobs lost.
But there are other concerns, including hunger, particularly for older residents.
The Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice is working on a project addressing hunger issues in Hawaii.
Using census data, the center estimates nearly 17,000 people over 60 in the state are “at risk for hunger” — and that was before the pandemic.
Daniella Kittenger heads the project and she says many seniors face food challenges from mobility issues to dietary restrictions.
And there’s another factor that’s increased in recent months: social isolation.
“So even before the pandemic, seniors might be at higher risk for social isolation due to limited transportation options but this has been exacerbated,” she said. “Seniors fear venturing out in public for food. They’ve lost connection to their long-established food resources, things like community gatherings, or going to church, or for households with seniors and children, that relied on free or reduced price meals. With schools closed, they’re feeding their children three meals a day, whereas before it was only dinner. Things like this are really contributing to the increase in food insecurity.”
Kittenger says the problems are especially severe in the state’s rural areas.
You can hear more about the hunger challenges faced by Hawaii’s kupuna, along with some programs that can help, this Friday on The Conversation at 11 a.m. on HPR-1 and streaming on hawaiipublicradio.org and on our mobile app.