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Monday, May 04, 2020
May 4, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:38 PM :: 756 Views

VIDEO: Is Hawaii taxing healthcare to death?

Why Did Gov. Ige Lock Hawaii Down Till May 31?

Hawaii 3rd Worst State for Nurses 

COVID Count: Another day with only one new case

Bill 40: City Council to Save Construction Industry from Crooked Union PLA Requirement?

SA: … Six months ago the city adopted a controversial “workforce agreement ordinance” that, beginning May 30, will require contractors on large city projects to have union contracts.

A bill designed to soften the negative impacts of the new law is moving through the Honolulu City Council and will be up for a key vote Wednesday….

Bill 37 (2019), which became law in October without Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s signature, mandates that contract work for city projects valued at $2 million or more must include a collective bargaining agreement between the city, the Hawaii Building and Construction Trades Council, the Hawaii Construction Alliance and their affiliated labor unions. The proposal divided the state’s construction industry, with major unions lobbying hard for it and contractor associations working just as hard to get it shot down.

The ordinance is set to take effect May 30, but city attorneys have raised legal concerns about the language of the bill, prompting the Council to consider Bill 40.

Councilman Joey Manahan, who introduced Bill 40, said the new measure clears up a concern raised by Caldwell and city attorneys that requiring workforce agreements infringes on the executive branch’s authority to procure contracts, to decide whether community workforce agreements are suitable and then negotiate those agreements.

Caldwell, who said he supported the concept of workforce agreements in certain situations, also voiced concern that the language in the bill requiring workforce agreements to give preference to use local laborers would jeopardize funding from some federal funding programs that prohibit such a clause, Manahan said….

Manahan said the new bill removes most references to “shall” with the word “may.”…

Nathaniel Kinney, (formerly of the crooked painters union) executive director of the Hawaii Construction Alliance, said he believes the concerns raised by city attorneys about procurement were overblown….

read … City Council takes up union labor ordinance

Economic Downturn Could Hit Public Pension Funds Hard

CB: … Hawaii owes billions to its state retirement system. The coronavirus pandemic could make repaying those funds even harder….What damage, if any, has been done to the investment portfolios won’t be fully apparent until financial reports come out later this year….

Related: Hawaii ERS headed for disaster if economy keeps heading south

read … Economic Downturn Could Hit Public Pension Funds Hard

Queen’s Medical Center takes down coronavirus triage tent as Hawaii’s infection rate remains low

SA: .. The Queen’s Medical Center this morning took down a disaster tent used to triage coronavirus patients outside the ambulance bay on Punchbowl Street — a “momentous” sign of hope that COVID-19 is no longer circulating widely in the community.

The outdoor triage tent was erected seven weeks ago on March 12 to evaluate, test and separate COVID-19-infected patients from the rest of the hospital population. Hospitals had scrambled to empty out facilities to make room for a surge in cases and potentially, mass casualties.

“It’s a sign of victory. It’s a sign that I think our planning and our perseverance has come through being one of the lowest states in the country that has infections and deaths per capita,” said Dr. Daniel Cheng, medical director of the emergency department at Queen’s, which is currently screening less than four patients in 24 hours in the triage center. “Given the lack of any positive tests in the last two weeks in our testing population, we do feel like the pandemic, at least on Oahu, has subsided.”….

Queen’s has seen as steady drop in inpatient and outpatient COVID-19 testing and infections. The hospital tested 1,100 people during the week of March 15, compared to about 400 the week of April 19. The number of people testing positive fell to 2.1% the week of April 19 from a peak of 4.9% the week of March 29.

COVID-19 screenings have been moved to an adjacent building, with eight screening stations, outside the ER….

Some Hawaii hospitals are also resuming elective surgeries and reopening outpatient clinics. Hospitals had postponed elective procedures and closed clinics in March because of limited supplies of personal protective equipment and to make room for a surge that did not happen….

read … Queen’s Medical Center takes down coronavirus triage tent as Hawaii’s infection rate remains low

As financial pain grows, Hawaii’s ‘nonessential’ retailers await OK to reopen

SA: … Hawaii government leaders have taken cautious baby steps allowing a few more kinds of businesses to reopen last week, but financial burdens continue to pile up for retailers and restaurants.

A broad glimpse of the impact on such businesses was presented Thursday by Hawaii’s second-largest retail property landlord.

Alexander & Baldwin Inc., which owns 22 shopping complexes statewide, said 57% of rent from its retail and restaurant tenants was paid in April.

This rent hole was tied to businesses that local government officials deemed nonessential and therefore shouldn’t have contact with the public as part of the effort to stamp out the spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, A&B said in the financial report for investors that tenants providing 39% of its retail property rent have requested rent relief, and that this figure was 66% for restaurants and 76% for retailers focused on “softline” goods such as apparel.

If that picture isn’t distressing enough, consider that the Honolulu-based real estate company considers itself in far better shape than many other retail center owners in Hawaii….

MF: Alexander & Baldwin (ALEX) Q1 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

Background: A&B: 89% of Restaurants Did Not Pay April Rent

read … As financial pain grows, Hawaii’s ‘nonessential’ retailers await OK to reopen

As new coronavirus cases dwindle, the state looks at a ‘phase-in’ approach to reopening

HNN: … With car washes and golf courses open on Oahu, state and county leaders are now talking about how to phase-in the reopening of other businesses in Hawaii.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green, (D) Hawaii, noted that on a per-capita basis, Hawaii already has one of the lowest rates of coronavirus infections in the country and the number of infections reported daily have been dropping. And, of the 620 people infected in Hawaii, 544 have recovered, he said.

“That’s a very good situation because as we open up our kamaaina economy that suggests we should be at low risk for additional spread," Green said.

He said over the next few days, there will be talks to further lift restrictions on businesses on a step-by-step basis, starting with other low-risk businesses that don’t require face-to-face contact, then on to medium-risk businesses like retailers and restaurants.

“Because our numbers are so low, that gives us some capacity to push the envelope a little bit and get to the medium risk faster," he said….

But some mayors are urging caution….

VIDEO: House COVID-19 committee discusses strategic reopening of Hawaii

KITV: House Select Committee on COVID-19 to discuss reopening Hawaii and more

KHON: Lt. Gov. discusses reopening businesses in Hawaii

read … As new coronavirus cases dwindle, the state looks at a ‘phase-in’ approach to reopening

Carnival to resume cruises in summer when coronavirus order ends, but not from Hawaii

AP: … Carnival Cruise Line announced today it will start cruising again, from Florida and Texas, beginning in August. These Caribbean trips are the first announced by one of the major cruise lines since the coronavirus pandemic forced a near-total pause in the global cruise industry.

The ports of Miami, Cape Canaveral and Galveston, Texas were selected because they are accessible by car for the majority of the guests, the company said in a statement. The eight ships named by the company have itineraries showing stops in the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Mexico, among other places.

Carnival Cruise Line said ships will not be cruising from Alaska, Hawaii and Australia through Aug. 31….

read … Carnival to resume cruises in summer when coronavirus order ends, but not from Hawaii

With virus under control, Australia and New Zealand may form a travel ‘bubble’

WaPo: … With their novel coronavirus outbreaks under control, New Zealand and Australia are discussing forming a "travel bubble" that would allow people to resume international journeys across the Tasman Sea without quarantine restrictions.

The move, which is still weeks if not months away, would enable both countries to take a step toward normality and help their tourism industries. It also would serve as a potential template for other governments as they emerge from the crisis.

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, is scheduled to join Australia’s national cabinet meeting, along with Australian state premiers, on Tuesday to discuss the proposal….

AP: US DOT approves United, American request to temporarily suspend neighbor island travel

AP: Isolated by oceans: Hawaii, other islands tamp down virus

read … With virus under control, Australia and New Zealand may form a travel ‘bubble’

50,000 QUEST beneficiaries to be forced to change their insurance plans?

MN: … The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of accessible health care. However, many beneficiaries of Hawaii’s Medicaid QUEST Integration system — kupuna, people with low incomes, children, pregnant women and individuals who are disabled — are at risk of having their insurance options and access to health care limited by a dangerous administrative decision.

The Department of Human Services decided earlier this year to limit the number of plans providing QUEST Integration insurance on the Neighbor Islands. DHS selected HMSA and UnitedHealthcare as the only two health plans able to offer QUEST insurance on Neighbor Islands, which had previously been served by five plans.

Under the current decision, Oahu QUEST beneficiaries would have access to four health care plans. Does DHS value the health and lives of all the people of Hawaii or just those living on Oahu?

Eliminating AlohaCare and Kaiser Permanente leaves a gaping hole in our health care system and puts a huge strain on our provider networks, which are already stretched to their limits due to a physician shortage. This decision could force 50,000 QUEST beneficiaries to change their insurance plans…

read … Maui Medicaid patients deserve access to same health plans as Oahu patients

Jail population in Wailuku drops below 300 with inmate releases

MN: … At 283, count is below the facility’s operational capacity….

In a news release Friday, the department reported the Maui jail population at 283, which is below the facility’s operational capacity of 301 but above the design capacity of 209. The number represents a 38 percent decline since March 2, when 450 inmates were in the jail.

Statewide, the number of jail inmates decreased by 810 to 1,379 on Friday for a 37 percent decrease from 2,189 on March 2….

Foley’s third summary report Thursday said 50 inmates were released and eight inmates’ motions for release were denied after court hearings from April 14 to Tuesday in 2nd Circuit Court.

Foley recommended that statewide efforts continue.

“While the reduction has not been as sweeping and immediate as some have wanted, the releases are being made in a deliberate and thoughtful manner and have resulted in a significant decrease in the inmate population,” his report said. “This is being done in a manner that is consistent with public safety . . . “

The Department of Public Safety reported no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its prisons or jails.

As of last week, four MCCC inmates had been tested for COVID-19 with negative results….

KITV: Lawmaker condemns the release of hundreds of inmates from Hawaii's prisons

Link: PSD News Release

read … Jail population in Wailuku drops below 300 with inmate releases

HGEA Members Playing Solitaire on their Wang Computers are the Key to Economic recovery

CB: …Another compelling reason to reject pay cuts for state workers is that we need them and their services more than ever now to:

  • run programs (using punch cards on 1980s mainframes) that (very slowly) help families meet basic needs for food, housing, and health, and that help businesses regain their footing;
  • provide the public health infrastructure to track and monitor outbreaks and develop safe plans to re-open the economy (talk down testing); and
  • create the systems for (pretend) remote education and (pretend) work many of us now rely on and ensure access to high-speed internet (even though they don’t have it themselves)

There exist better alternatives to unwise across-the-board state spending cuts. We started the year with a budget surplus. We have a rainy day fund and we can borrow from others like the hurricane relief fund. In fact, borrowing money may be the best option for the state right now.

read … Want The Economy To Recover? Don’t Cut The Public Sector

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