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Friday, June 19, 2020
June 19, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:42 PM :: 922 Views

Caldwell Signs Budget: Rail Faces ‘Hard Decisions’ due to Collapse of Economy

DHHL Expands COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program

Tax Credit Available for Low Income Homeowners

AG proposes COVID Spying Bills to Legislature

HTH: …Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors told lawmakers Thursday she’s proposing a set of bills aimed at a smoother transition into emergency mode and better tracking of quarantined individuals during pandemics….

One bill, Connors said, would “create additional authority for the director of the Department of Health to declare a public health emergency … based on those health criteria he or she sees.”

The current state of emergency was declared by Gov. David Ige and the mayors of the individual counties, including Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, and the governor would also retain the authority under the law to declare a pandemic emergency, as would Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Connors told the legislators that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the need to be prepared and to be flexible.

According to Connors, the bill would “automatically expire after 90 days,” but could be extended by the health director as needed.

Connors added that the bill would amend state law to “codify the screening process.”

“We all know that traveling is going to be different,” she said, adding the screening now done on interisland passengers would be studied and improvements will be made in the process for future pandemics.

According to Connors, the mandatory new travel and health form interisland travelers are now required to fill out “is different from any form that we’ve seen before.”

“It asks a set of health questions; it also asks a set of COVID-related questions — and, very importantly, it gets the contact information of the persons traveling,” she said. “If someone falls ill … the Department of Health needs to be able to contact you and needs to be able to do all the different things related to contact tracing.”

Connors is requesting a special fund be set up to pay for screening of visitors and returning residents through “a reallocation of the transient accommodation tax,” or TAT, also known as the hotel room tax….

Another proposed measure is aimed at giving counties the power to crack down on online marketing of illegal short-term vacation rentals.

“It gives the ability to the counties … to establish a registry of lawfully authorized or permitted short-term rentals. It provides them the authority to require that any rental operator list the complete physical address, including the unit number and tax map key,” Connors said. “It gives the counties the authority to prohibit hosting platforms from completing booking transactions for any rental that’s not on the registry. It also provides the counties the authority to prohibit hosting platforms from collecting or receiving a fee for facilitating or providing services that are ancillary to a short-term rental.

“It gives the counties subpoena power, which is something that could also assist in their ability to engage in investigations.”

A third legislative proposal is “related to the Young Brothers matter,” Connors told the committee. The bill would allow the Public Utilities Commission to appoint a receiver for barge shippers….

The Legislature reconvenes Monday….

SA: Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who was asked by Ige to lead a hui to come up with a plan to reopen tourism, said “tons of progress” has been made on a testing protocol that continues to advance.

VIDEO: Hawaii Short Term Vacation Rental Rules Clarified, New Bill Proposed

read … AG proposes measures aimed at improving state’s response during pandemics

State says greater testing capacity, digital records on visitors needed to restart tourism

HNN: … Greater testing capacity, thermal screening machines, digital records on tourists.

Those are among the requests state Department of Health leaders want ahead of Hawaii welcoming out-of-state visitors without a mandatory quarantine.

Pre-travel testing has been discussed a lot as a requirement for tourists, but state Epidemiologist Sarah Park said it won’t be enough.

“I’m just trying to make sure that these travelers are somehow able to be tracked by us,” Park told the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19.

The pre-travel testing could be done by a national drug store chain like CVS.

Health Director Bruce Anderson said there are more than 10,000 locations nationwide and the store could verify a negative test before the traveler gets to Hawaii.

Park said once the visitor arrives, screening that includes temperature checks will be done and a questionnaire will have to completed. Park said the form, currently used for inter-island travel, is helpful but she wants it digitized so the information is available immediately should contact tracing need to be done….

Another concern: The lack of tests available. Park said addressing the supply chain issue is the no. 1 priority but admitted it’s a global problem that may not be fixed by local leaders.

In the contact tracing process, hundreds of tests are needed.

In addition to supply, the current capacity of 3,000 tests per day would not be enough.

An example given at the hearing: the Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center required almost 1,000 tests in one day due to an outbreak….

SA: Coronavirus testing, temperature checks and quarantine will be imperfect, Hawaii health director says

SA: Oklahoma visitor dies of apparent drowning while breaking 14-day passenger quarantine

read … State says greater testing capacity, digital records on visitors needed to restart tourism

Cluster of COVID-19 cases at state’s largest nursing home grows to 11 as testing continues

HNN: … Health experts are increasingly concerned about a growing cluster of COVID-19 cases linked to the state’s largest skilled nursing facility.

On Thursday morning, health officials reported that six additional people at Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center had tested positive for COVID-19, more than doubling the size of the cluster at the facility.

Of the 11 who have tested positive, seven are residents ― three of whom have been hospitalized ― and four are staff members. The first case linked to Hale Nani was a staff member, who tested positive on Friday.

The increase comes one day after members of a COVID Mobile Command Unit tested nearly 800 people living and working at the facility.

Dr. Scott Miscovich is charge of the mass testing and is working with the nursing home to expand its isolation ward.

“We have a red zone which is the place where all the infected individuals are,” he said. “Staff is in full PPE, full infection control. Full quarantine.”

There’s also an “orange zone” for residents who have been exposed but so far have tested negative for the virus. Miscovich says they’ll be re-tested every three days….

Up until Thursday, all of the positive cases had been isolated to a unit on the top floor of the facility. Miscovich says one staff member outside that unit has now tested positive.

(Reality: COVID + nursing home = disaster.  All positives should be immediately removed from the nursing home and quarantined/treated off site.)

CB: Oahu Nursing Home Will Test All Residents And Staff Weekly For COVID-19

read … Cluster of COVID-19 cases at state’s largest nursing home grows to 11 as testing continues

Lawmaker says Black Lives Matter protest likely contributed to spike in COVID-19 cases

KHON: … On Saturday, June 6th an estimated 10,000 people gathered supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement marching together from Ala Moana to the State Capitol. The day before the protest marched in Waikiki with roughly 2,000 in attendance. Twelve to thirteen days later a spike in positive cases of coronavirus.

“Eighteen new cases today and it’s in effect the result of the protests. And then of course there’s a small surge at a nursing facility, so the combo is 18 cases,” Green explained.

The spike uptick in cases is no surprise. Green warned it would happen.

“You have to expect these small surges if people do end up out-and-about without significant social distancing.”

Green said he the surge could last from three to five days but believes it will be short-lived….

There are currently 105 active cases, out of 762 total cases in Hawaii….

read … Lawmaker says Black Lives Matter protest likely contributed to spike in COVID-19 cases

DoE Reopening Plans Secret Until After Legislative Session Ends

CB: … “Our goal is to have all of this finalized to the greatest extent possible by next Friday and ready to the public by July 2 and ready for the board shortly thereafter so we can have continued conversations,” she said during the board’s bimonthly Webex meeting.

(Translation: We are trying to get the Lege to approve our plan to pay HSTA members to do nothing for the fall semester.)

The Hawaii Department of Education’s open-ended guidance on what schools will look like when they reopen for the 2020-21 calendar year August 4 has been the source of ongoing frustration for parents, union officials and school community members….

read … DOE Will Share More School Reopening Plans In July

Sacrifice: Public workers approved for 4.5% pay raises by city council

HNN: … Oahu lifeguards, sheriffs and conservation officers are up for a decent bump in pay.

An arbitrator awarded four-and-half percent raises for this year and last year, which are more than double the pay hikes for other government workers.

HGEA had argued that the low pay of state safety officers made it difficult to recruit and keep them from leaving.

The council’s budget committee approved the raises without objection.

“When we go to (arbitration), we are at the mercy of the arbitrator, and just to let you know, the other bargaining units had settled at two percent per year,” Carolee Kubo, of the city’s Human Resources Department told council members Wednesday. “But that was the award. So its a final and binding thing, so its up to you for the funding,”…

read … Lifeguards among workers approved for pay raises by city council

Report: ‘New normal’ could mean half of Hawaii families in financial hardship

HNN: … The Aloha United Way report concludes that even as Hawaii’s economy stabilizes, the “new normal” will be bleak for many households.

It predicts that by year’s end 35,000 more Hawaii families will be experiencing financial hardship compared to before the pandemic.

That means 225,000 Hawaii families ― or half of households in the state ― could be struggling to make ends meet.

Additionally, the report says that many Hawaii families never really recovered from the Great Recession as the cost of living soared in the islands even as wages remains stagnant ....

read … Report: ‘New normal’ could mean half of Hawaii families in financial hardship

Honolulu Police Chief Hopes Nationwide Reform Movement Skips Hawaii

CB: … Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard told the Honolulu Police Commission this week that she hopes the police reform that’s sweeping the nation skips Hawaii.

“We are different,” she told the commission during their Wednesday meeting. “They’re talking about, ‘you had a spike in officer-involved shootings.’ We had eight in a year!”

“OK, it’s high for Honolulu but in general for any other large major police department, that’s nothing.”

Police killings have multiplied since Ballard took office in 2017 after her predecessor was indicted for federal corruption. Thirty people died at the hands of Honolulu police since 2010, with half of those deaths since 2018.

That total doesn’t include a 28-year-old man in Kaneohe who died in police custody Wednesday morning, just hours before Ballard appeared before the commission. His cause of death is still unknown.….

HPR: Former Honolulu Police Commissioner Loretta Sheehan on Police Reforms

read … Honolulu Police Chief Hopes Nationwide Reform Movement Skips Hawaii

Caldwell scraps Sherwood Forest plan due to protests

SA: … “It is clear to me that despite our differences about this field, everyone involved in today’s announcement cares deeply about our community, about Waimanalo and about the future we are leaving our kids,” Caldwell said. “I’ve made the decision that this administration is pau with the field and master plan. I am pau with the field and master plan. The next steps are up to this community to determine, but it is time for the land and our community to heal.”…

read … Caldwell scraps Sherwood Forest plan due to protests

Maui Co Bill to help grant recipients get funding without accountability

MN: … County departments and a former county administrator say there should and still will be accountability (Translation: Its party time!) for county grant funds as the council is poised to pass a bill today that would provide up to 25 percent or more of grant funds to recipients upfront….

Council Vice-Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who authored the bill, has said on the council floor and in the bill that the change will allow small organizations with limited resources and staffing to receive funding expeditiously.

(Translation: To score money form a ‘burner’ nonprofit.) 

Depending on the grants, certain processes may be difficult for some organizations to complete upfront with minimum staff, or in some cases the organizations may not have capital to begin with and therefore cannot front the money to be reimbursed by the county later, Rawlins-Fernandez explained.

Following the initial disbursement, all remaining grant funds must be paid through the departments’ reimbursement process, according to the bill….

But if 100 percent was given upfront, even with smaller grants — a possibility that was floated in committee discussion — she said she wouldn’t favor the bill as the county would have no leverage to get reports and receipts to make sure funds are spent properly….

When Rasmussen was head of OED in 2018, her office terminated part of a $100,000 grant awarded to an organization headed by Brian Bardellini, an executive assistant of then-Council Member Alika Atay, after vendors who participated in a 250th birthday celebration for Queen Ka’ahumanu did not get paid. The office instead took over the task of reimbursing vendors….

read … Bill to help grant recipients with funding

Hawaii County Council to take up new construction code

HTH: … A comprehensive rewrite of the county building code is heading for its first vetting at a County Council committee after more than a year of tinkering by the county Building Division and various stakeholders.

The 197-page bill is scheduled to be heard July 7 by the Committee on Public Works and Mass Transit. It can be downloaded at www.dpw.hawaiicounty.gov/resources/new-building-code/-fsiteid-4.

read … Hawaii County Council to take up new construction code

Should Hawaiian Electric Company Receive Financial Incentives to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

IM: … The Public Utilities Commission has an on-going three-year regulatory proceeding focused on transforming the way the Hawaiian Electric Companies receive ratepayer funding. Incentive regulation relies on rewards and penalties would replace the traditional cost of service approach….

(Translation: Rate hikes coming.) 

read …  Should Hawaiian Electric Company Receive Financial Incentives to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

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