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Friday, May 15, 2020
May 15, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:42 PM :: 1875 Views

Schatz: State Needs to Stop Dragging Feet on Mass Testing

CMS: Nursing Homes Should Screen for COVID 

VIDEO: Three DOCARE Cops Wrestle Beachgoer to Ground

Honolulu Reopens Churches, Athletic Fields

COVID Count: No New Cases Today

Hawaii 3rd-Highest Share of Workforce Filing for Unemployment

HB117: Legislators Defer Raises for a Year

Powerful stories highlight need to lift lockdown

Fraudulent International Ship Registration Scandals hit Pacific Islands

Caldwell says police can’t ‘babysit’ quarantined travelers, calls on state to improve ‘insane’ system      

HNN: … Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Thursday shot back at several state lawmakers who suggested Honolulu police could be doing more to enforce the mandatory quarantine on travelers.

Instead, he said, the state should be ensuring visitors don’t leave the airport unless they have a hotel to stay at for 14 days or a family taking them in for the period. They shouldn’t be staying at vacation rentals, which were forced to cease operations under emergency orders, and certainly shouldn’t be going to Oahu homeless shelters, he said.

“The Honolulu Police Department cannot babysit someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is an insane way to deal with this issue,” a visibly irked Caldwell said, at a news conference.

He added police also can’t “profile” people on beaches based on their ethnicities to see if they’re tourists.

Caldwell’s comments come amid increasing friction between the city and state over how the mandatory quarantine is being enforced. Earlier this week, state lawmakers suggested police should be doing more to address the issue….

read … Caldwell says police can’t ‘babysit’ quarantined travelers, calls on state to improve system

Major General Hara expresses concern about maintaining good relations with tourists

KITV: … "Some of the policies that we are doing now are really vilifying tourism. At some point we are going to ask these tourists to come back to Hawaii. So that was one of my concerns that you know that we talk about the Aloha Spirit but how do we allow them to come in here but ensure that they stick to that 14-day quarantine without vilifying them," Major General Ken Hara said.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green is also worried about negative interactions with locals and travelers.

According to Hara, he's working with state and community leaders to identify what risks are acceptable when it comes to reopening our economy and fighting the spread of COVID-19….

CNN: Hawaii discourages tourists from coming to the state through at least the end of June

read … Major General Hara expresses concern about maintaining good relations with tourists

Tourism Policy Should be Modeled on War on Drugs

Cataluna: … Expecting tourists to obey a 14-day quarantine for the good of a community they don’t live in has proved to be naive and unrealistic. They’re here to have fun in the sun. Our “concerns” are getting in their way.

Perhaps the approach to keeping Hawaii safe from reintroduction of COVID-19 from travelers was misdirected from the start.

To combat the scourge of drugs, law enforcement targets dealers rather than users. Suppliers of illegal substances get harsher penalties than their customers. The higher up the supply chain, the more money they’re making off the troublesome trade, the greater the debt to society.

The responsibility for this dangerous situation should be put on those who are profiting off the quarantine-breakers. They’re aiding and abetting. They’re making quarantine-breaking possible….

Airlines keep flying in more people like they have no skin in the game. Hotels and motels were, oddly, deemed “essential” when Hawaii was shutting down businesses and telling us we had to stay home.

A specific problem is vacation rentals, where anything goes and nobody ever seems to get in trouble.

Legally permitted vacation rentals should not be operating at all right now…

The burden should be higher up the profit chain. If an outbreak gets traced back to a hotel or lodging, there should be fines and damages paid….

read …  Hawaii quarantine enforcement efforts misplaced

PPP Now Funds 170,000 positions in Hawaii

SA: … The Hawaii Bankers Association said Thursday its seven Small Business Administration-approved lenders have successfully secured more than $2.62 billion in Paycheck Protection Program funding for 20,637 local companies, supporting payrolls for an estimated 170,000 jobs statewide through the PPP.

The HBA expects banks will have funded nearly all secured PPP loans by the end of May….

read … Magic Money from the Sky

Thielen, Kahele: Why No Direct Grants to Unemployed in State Budget?

SA: … Ige has said he wants to use much of the remaining federal money to replenish the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund, while leading state lawmakers say they want to deposit more than $500 million in the state’s “rainy day” budget reserve fund to use later.

But those plans left some lawmakers cold.

“I guess what I want to know is, Why isn’t the governor proposing anything with this CARES money that’s going to go out and help people in Hawaii that are hurting?” said state Sen. Laura Thielen (D, Hawaii Kai- Waimanalo-Kailua). “These tend to be the workers that are waitresses, tour bus drivers, hula dancers, people that can’t go without one paycheck, let alone two months without a paycheck.”

Thielen cited Montana, where the governor recently announced $123 million in emergency grants with money from the CARES Act, including emergency housing assistance and food support.

“We have altogether probably 130,000 or more people who’ve not yet seen a dime of any type of unemployment or federal funds for unemployed workers or self-employed or independent contractors, and many of them have been out of work since March,” she said.

State Sen. Kai Kahele echoed those comments, urging administration officials to push federal funds out to food banks and nonprofit organizations “that are providing food right now.”

“We have hundreds of thousands of people who are unemployed that are not getting their first-time checks. They are not getting their biweekly checks. People are starving. They are hungry. We have food lines like we’ve never seen before, and if we leave this Legislature appropriating an $862.8 million budget and we are not allocating money for the most immediate needs of our people right now, I don’t know how we do that,” said Kahele (D, Hilo).

“That is something that I want to see the governor lead this state on,” Kahele said….

Ige’s chief of staff, Linda Chu Takayama, told lawmakers the state Department of Human Services is seeking $2 million in federal funding and has also asked for permission to fill 100 positions…

HPR: Clock Ticking On Health Coverage Options For Unemployed

read … Hawaii to tap ‘Pandemic EBT’ program for an extra $25M in food aid

Applications for food stamps spike

WHT: … In April, the first full month of the COVID-19 lockdown, the statewide number of Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program recipients jumped to 171,451, an increase of nearly 20,000 from April 2019….

That increase reversed a trend throughout the first three months of the year, where the number of SNAP recipients was consistently lower each month than in 2019.

In Hawaii County in particular, nearly 800 people have filed SNAP applications within the first week of May alone, about 20% of the state’s total during that same period.

However, the state Department of Human Services’ Benefit, Employment and Support Division, which administers SNAP, has not experienced any significant delay in service, said Brian Donohoe, the division’s administrator.

“It would be a crushing workload if we didn’t have a good system to process applications already,” Donohoe said, adding that his staff, who normally have to field 90 to 100 phone calls in a day, are now conducting more than 500 every day….

The division’s impressive response rate, especially considering the state’s struggles in processing a massive upswing in unemployment claims, comes partly from certain emergency provisions implemented for the duration of the crisis, Donohoe said. For example, the division is permitted to waive elements of applicants’ interview processes and postpone eligibility reviews.

Donohoe said, based on anecdotal observations, it is likely that many of the recent SNAP applicants are applying for the first time.

read … Applications for food stamps spike

Lockdown Kills Too

CB: … young people who are quarantined in their homes may be drinking more, eating more, and getting no exercise. The social fabric often found in the workplace is lost. It is a recipe for anxiety and depression which are leading causes of suicide.

Suicide rates go up in times of economic crisis. Couple that with the social isolation and we could have even more suicides.

David Brooks, in a April 4 Honolulu Star-Advertiser column titled “In times of stress, making deep connections can help,” quotes a study by Samantha Brooks of King’s College London that quarantine produces a range of bad mental health outcomes, including trauma, confusion and anger.

He also refers to an article by Tyler Norris of the Well Being Trust that every one-percentage-point of unemployment leads eventually to a 3.5% increase in opioid addiction.

In 2017 Hawaii had, according to reports, 227 suicide deaths and 207 opioid deaths. Research in BMJ, a leading medical journal in a study on the impact of the 2008 global economic crisis on suicides, showed that suicides by men were 4.2% to 6.4% higher than what would have been expected under earlier trends.

Rates were lower for women. France is reporting that cases of domestic abuse have gone up by about a third.

CNN reports that the New York City domestic violence website, NYC Hope, saw website visits double from March 18 to April 5….

read … We Must Finds Ways To Open More Of Hawaii

Hawaii auto sales plummet

SA: … The (government reaction to the) COVID-19 pandemic sent new vehicle registrations plunging 6.6% with the tailspin expected to considerably worsen the rest of the year, according to a report scheduled for release today by Hawaii Auto Outlook.

New vehicle registrations are projected to decline 33% in 2020 to a nine-year low of just 38,250, according to the report produced for the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association. It would be the lowest level since 2011 when 37,090 vehicles were sold and end a run of seven straight years of more than 50,000 vehicles sold. It also would mark the third straight year of declines in what has been a softening auto market in the state…..

PDF: Hawaii Auto Markets

read … Hawaii auto sales plummet, but pickup forecast for 2021

Maui Hospital down to 1 COVID-19 patient

MN: … Maui Memorial Medical Center marked a milestone in its monthslong fight against COVID-19 when it reduced virus-treating wards down to one — with a sole positive patient — on Thursday evening.

Also, the hospital said it considers the coronavirus cluster “contained.”

“We have not had anyone, patient or staff, come back from a positive contact in nearly three weeks,” hospital spokeswoman Tracy Dallarda told The Maui News on Thursday night.

The Maui Memorial cluster began in mid-March and has been linked by the hospital to 53 people (39 health care workers and 14 patients). Another seven cases are under investigation for a possible connection. State health officials said the outbreak was traced to a sole worker who showed up while sick.

At the height of the pandemic, Maui’s main hospital had four units to treat positive or suspected cases. The Haleakala South ward, which ended its run as a COVID-19 treatment unit Thursday, at its peak held 11 positive patients and eight suspected cases that turned out negative….

The hospital’s ICU isolation unit — the area most conducive for separating and safeguarding patients — will remain open for any suspected or confirmed positive individuals….

read … Hospital down to 1 COVID-19 patient

On front lines of COVID-19 battle, nurses also find themselves fighting stigma

HNN: … Nurses say the pressure has been intense.

"You have everyone depending on you, making sure that we’re taking care of the patients, we’re healing the patients. It’s a lot of pressure, but a lot of criticism at the same time,” said registered nurse Lovelee Tagudin.

Yes, criticism.

Nurses say they’ve felt shunned in some stores and eateries.

“There’s free food or a discount if you show your badge. I don’t show because … you kind of get stoned,” said registered nurse Novy Haban.

“People who try to get in to certain places with their badges ... things got thrown at them,” Welch said.

They say they walk around with a misconception that they are contaminated….

read … On front lines of COVID-19 battle, nurses also find themselves fighting stigma

Catholics Left out of Religious Reopening

SA … Bishop Larry Silva, who heads the Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Honolulu, said in a statement that while he’s happy to see restrictions for gatherings for worship being eased by the mayor, “the ‘in vehicle’ services, especially with the prohibition of distributing anything, simply is not what is needed for Catholic worship.”

Silva noted that the act of receiving Holy Communion, where parishioners receive a sacramental wafer of bread, is at the heart of a Catholic Mass service. “Having people ‘attend’ a service from their vehicles when they are prohibited from receiving Communion is of little value to us,” Silva said. “People would be much more comfortable viewing a livestream from home if they could not receive Communion.”

Silva said he’s hopeful that standard religious practices will be allowed soon, “just as restaurants are soon to be open with proper protocols.”

Violating the emergency orders may be punishable as a misdemeanor, with fines of up to $5,000, up to a year in jail or both.

read … Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell allows limited use of parks, religious activities

Best Locations For The NBA To Resume The Season #13 Hawaii

BB: … A location that isn't being talked enough is Hawaii. While there might not be basketball arenas all right around each other, this would be an area where players would be isolated away from the rest of the country. There are plenty of resorts in the area that would be able to hold all of the NBA, which makes it even more convenient….

read … The Best And Worst Locations For The NBA To Resume The Season #13 Hawaii

Audit: Bloated HECO Wastes $46M a Year

IM: … The audit found that the HECO Companies could, in a best-case scenario, further reduce yearly expenditures by another $35,700,000. A more realistic target is to cut expenses by $25 million - $26.5 million by the end of 2020.

Combined, these two efforts would reduce yearly expenditures by $46M….

The audit found that staffing at HECO, MECO, and HELCO increased from 2310 Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) in 2010 to over 2700 FTEs in 2019.

Staff increased to support Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirements but there is a lack of evidence that the increases were needed. Multiple groups across the companies pursue overlapping RPS initiatives.

Currently, renewable energy developers need to interface with multiple departments. Instead, all developers should interface with a single point of contact – the Business Department. This department should not take on new functions but should instead coordinate actions that are handled by the various utility departments.

Energy Delivery exploded from four departments to nine divisions each with its own director and support staff resulting in a bureaucratic mess.

“Energy Delivery however is an area that requires urgent corrective actions. The recent One Company restructuring of Energy Delivery expanded the number of Divisions and exacerbated a culture that appeared to have little focus on costs, efficiency and managing the business effectively.

“In T&D Operations, the largest Division in Energy Delivery by both budget and number of employees, we found multiple layers of supervisors and managers providing only basic oversight of the work being performed with little understanding of costs.

“There are also serious issues within controlled overtime such that one T&D operations employee claimed over 3000 hours of overtime in 2019 and earned $442,734 - more than five times his base salary - without it being identified or highlighted anywhere in the Company…. 

read … PUC Management Audit of Hawaiian Electric Company Published

Man allegedly busted with defaced gun, meth, released

WHT: … Phillips-Panui was released from custody after Hawaii Bail Bonds posted a $5,000 surety bond. He was ordered to return to court at 8:30 a.m. May 26 for a preliminary hearing.  (Tweeker gave up $500 to walk)

The COVID-19 pandemic is not mentioned in the court minutes, but the courts are working under a state Supreme Court order intended to reduce jail populations that states in part, “Release shall be presumed, unless the court finds that the release of the inmate would pose a significant risk to the safety of the inmate or the public.”

According to court documents filed by police, at about 3:35 p.m. on May 6, patrol officers spotted a black Toyota Corolla sedan with dark tinted windows in the parking lot of Malama Park, a county facility in the Panaewa area of Hilo.

When police entered the park’s parking lot, Phillips-Panui started to leave, but was stopped by officers.

Documents state that one of the patrolmen, Officer Christopher Jelsma, spotted a handgun in the driver’s side of the car, drew his own service sidearm and ordered Phillips-Panui out of the vehicle.

The handgun, according to documents, was a silver-and-black 1911-style 9 mm semi-automatic handgun with the hammer cocked, a round of ammunition chambered and a 10-round magazine fully loaded.

Documents state the firearm bore no serial number.

A search of the car allegedly turned up a green camouflage backpack with three boxes of 9 mm ammo, a baggie with 3.39 grams of powder that tested positive for crystal methamphetamine, and a glass smoking pipe with residue that also tested positive for meth, documents state….

He also allegedly told officers he’s been smoking ice for three years and carries the firearm with him whenever he’s in the car….

WHT:  Case dismissed against Kona woman accused of plotting to kill husband

read … COVID Justice

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