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Thursday, June 11, 2020
June 11, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:38 PM :: 2935 Views

Hawaii COVID Lawsuit: Emergency Rules Unconstitutional Beyond 60 Days

DLIR Updates Unemployment Claims Processing Numbers

Ige Extends Emergency Order Through July 31

‘New normal’ requires long-term budget thinking

Lockdown victims include Hawaii healthcare providers

COVID Count: Seven new cases out of 1,284 new tests

Anderson and Kobayashi Block Forensic Audit of Rail—Use COVID as Excuse

HNN: … A city forensic audit for the rail project will not move forward.

Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi says the council chair (Ikaika Anderson) and vice chair (Ann Kobayashi) would not sign off on a Request for Proposals, or RFP.

The process would have allowed the audit to proceed.

Council members have varying opinions on the need for a city audit right now.

“We needed to really look into and get some answers for the taxpayers. Not just for our city, but also for our state, as the residents throughout our state have been paying — and future generations — will be paying in many different ways,” Tsuneyoshi said.

But Council Chair Ikaika Anderson says a federal audit is underway, and a city one would be redundant.

“It simply makes sense at this point in time not to move forward with expending city monies on a city audit while the federal government is already moving forward with an investigation on their dime,” Anderson said.

The council had already allocated $2 million of general funds for the audit.

Tsuneyoshi says the audit would have increased transparency….

SA: City Council leaders quash HART forensic audit

CB: Rail Investigation Is Latest Casualty Of COVID-19

read … A city rail audit won’t happen for now as feds continue their investigation

Hawaii will utilize facial recognition in airports

KITV: … Hawaii Governor David Ige announced Wednesday the state will use facial recognition to fight the spread of COVID-19. Department of Transportation Spokesperson Tim Sakahara said it will only be used in airports, and the renderings will be destroyed after 30 minutes.

(Really Obvious Question: How would facial recognition help stop COVID?) 

(Really Obvious Answer: It won’t, but the ‘emergency’ gives the gov’t the power and the excuse to use spy technologies that it wouldn’t be able to use in a democratic society.)

Sakahara said it is "Not your typical facial recognition," and it will be used alongside thermal scanners to detect people in airports with fevers.

The American Civil Liberties Union Hawaii affiliate, however, is concerned.

"[The state's use of facial recognition] should not be permitted," said ACLU Hawaii Executive Director Joshua Wisch.

"Most facial recognition systems carry racial bias which means they frequently misidentify faces of people of color," Wisch explained.

Wisch told KITV4 he believes there was a "dangerous" lack of community input prior to the utilization of this technology…. 

AP: Microsoft joins Amazon, IBM in pausing face scans for police

BIN: The governor added that he’s not concerned about privacy issues

CB: A more robust system of testing, contact tracing, isolation / quarantine, and surveillance must be grown.

HTH: Thermal scanners, facial recognition technology to be installed in Hawaii’s airports  “Companies will begin installing both temperature screening equipment and facial recognition cameras next week,” Sakahara said…He said the participating companies will submit their bids by June 26, the end of the pilot program, and “we anticipate making a selection within a week.”

CB: Tim Sakahara, the Department of Transportation spokesperson, announced a pilot passenger screening program that will run through June 26 that will include thermal temperature screening as well as the use of facial recognition cameras.

May 23, 2020: HTA Using Spy Program to Watch Tourists

May 25, 2020: 'Safe Travels System' -- Quarantine App Turns Hawaii Into a Privacy Nightmare

read … Hawaii will utilize facial recognition in airports

Hotel security keeps tabs on quarantined visitors

KITV: … Nearly 500 visitors arrived Tuesday by air, these are people who are expected to not leave their place of lodging for 14 days…

Rich said, “Some of the trends that we are seeing are people who made reservations in advance, a year ago or six months ago and they don’t want to change their reservations, so they decide to come to Hawaii to vacation anyway.”

Rich said there is an entire network that supervises the visitors’ moves, from airport officials to hotel clerks and security.

Lokahi Keama is the Chief of Security at the Hawaiian Monarch Hotel, where they have noticed an influx of visitors who are under quarantine orders, but cameras throughout the hotel make it easier to follow their moves.

Keama said, “As you can see we do have a fair amount of closed-circuit televisions, we do miss here and there, but this morning we called HPD about a quarantine breaker who lied to us in regards to their days of stay.”

VASH has sent 81 people back to their airport of origin….

Security at the Hawaiian Monarch Hotel also includes a one-time-use key card to enter the room, it will not reopen the door if the guest leaves….

read … Hotel security keeps tabs on quarantined visitors

Vacation rental owners claim discrimination, threaten lawsuit

KITV: … "I think it is frustration and desperation, like everyone else who has lost their job. The bills don't stop coming, mortgages still have to be paid, or rent is still due," said Honolulu attorney Gregory Bugle. He represents a number of owners who feel they are being discriminated against during this pandemic, because other accommodations like hotels and motels have been allowed to stay in business.

"We don't think it is fair or legal for the government to pick favorites and determine which sectors survive and which don't," added Kugle.

(CLUE: Hotel and hotel unions give more campaign contributions than TVRs.  Politicians are using the COVID emergency as a pretext to act on behalf of their campaign contributors.)

He sent letters to each county mayor and the governor, asking for the lifting of restrictions on legal vacation rentals, along with the lifting of inter-island travel restrictions. Citing $100 million in industry loses each month of the closure, the letter asks for action or threatens a billion dollar lawsuit against the counties and the state.

" A lawsuit is not what we are looking for, instead, we hope the governor and mayors will treat all accommodation sectors fairly," said Kugle.

Wednesday afternoon, Kugle said he had not received any response from the county mayors.

But Governor David Ige talked about easing vacation rental restrictions during his afternoon press conference, "We are working with the counties to enable legal vacation rentals to reopen. The emergency proclamation did allow Kauai's legal vacation rentals to operate, so this is something we are working with the counties on."

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell also sent KITV 4 Island News a statement saying "He is evaluating if legal vacation rentals can be opened in a manner that will protect public health and safety"…. 

CB: Vacation Rental Owners Are Threatening To Sue Over Shutdown

KITV: Coronavirus safety standards for hotels vs. vacation rentals: is one better than the other?

PBN: Attorney alleges Hawaii, counties discriminate against vacation rentals amid Covid reopenings

HTH: Short-term vacation rental owners think COVID-19 rules go too far

HTH: Vacation rentals could reopen soon

read … Vacation rental owners claim discrimination, threaten lawsuit

COVID an Excuse to Gut TVRs on Maui, Lanai

MN: … County officials are hoping that fewer short-term rentals will reduce the impacts of tourism on local neighborhoods, but owners say their businesses are not the drivers behind the overburdened visitor industry.

The Maui Planning Commission, which is considering a bill that would cut the number of permitted short-term rentals on Maui and Lanai from 349 to 278, heard testimony Tuesday from nearly two dozen testifiers, many of them short-term rental owners who opposed the reduced cap.

“COVID has done one thing for this community that is actually really needed,” testifier Heather Loughridge-Buono said. “It has illustrated in a very profound way that we need to diversify our economy. . . . Concentrating on this very small microcosm of the economy might not be the best way to do it.” ….

read … Commission mulls short-term rental cap

Honolulu City Council moving forward with resolution pressuring state to test visitors before they board a plane to Hawai'i

KITV: … For every plane that's not landing in Hawai'i, every visitor not enjoying our islands, county leaders say is another day where our economy takes a hit.

The Honolulu City Council is moving forward with a resolution putting pressure on the state to energize tourism by testing visitors up to three days before they leave.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green says the state is considering it, studying the model used right now in Alaska.

If we implement this program, people would simply go get their test, we've worked out the details already with CVS, we've got 1,200 sites across the country so if we do implement it, they can easily get the test, they pay for it, and that means we would not have to have quarantine for those individuals," Lieutenant Governor Green said….

SA: Hawaii tourism industry faces more losses from extended visitor quarantine

Related: Coronavirus Restrictions: Hawaii vs Alaska

read … Honolulu City Council moving forward with resolution pressuring state to test visitors before they board a plane to Hawai'i

COVID-19 patient was at Oahu game room hours before being hospitalized

HNN: … State Health Department officials reported four new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, one of whom is an Oahu woman in her 60s who has been hospitalized.

The woman’s doctor says she was admitted to the ER on Tuesday night.

And in the weeks leading up to her hospitalization, she had visited two different game rooms: One in Waipahu and the other in Pearl City….

He said the woman last visited the game room Tuesday, hours before her condition deteriorated and she was rushed to an ER….

(Idea: Police should shut down all the game rooms.)

read … COVID-19 patient was at Oahu game room hours before being hospitalized

Governor: I ‘ordered’ director handling unemployment claims to take time off

HNN: … Why is the director of the state office that handles jobless claims on leave at a time when Hawaii is grappling with record unemployment?

In a bizarre explanation Wednesday, the governor says it’s because he “ordered” it.

“I ordered Director (Scott) Murakami to take some time off because as you know he was under tremendous pressure,” Gov. David Ige said, at the tail end of a news conference on inter-island travel.

“In meeting and talking with him, I decided it would be best that he take some time off for himself and his family. I ordered him to stay away.” ….

read … Governor: I ‘ordered’ director handling unemployment claims to take time off

Pandemic's budget shortfalls push states toward automation

SS: … In Hawaii, which is facing an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall, CIO Douglas Murdock said that while he doesn’t expect any large IT modernization projects already underway to be defunded, it may soon become more difficult to find funding for new projects. Instead, he said, robotic process automation, a class of software designed to complete repetitive tasks like data entry, is becoming more attractive to technology offices like his.

“I think we’re all going to look for ways to streamline because things like RPA are going to be necessary,” Murdock said. “A lot of states keep archaic processes in place because there are people there to do them, I think. It’s civil-service mind block, maybe. But if we lose people, then we’re going to have to bring in RPA to take care of things and to get better.”

In Hawaii, IT modernization is chiefly represented by the elimination of paper documents, which the state is replacing with digital processes that require less printing, filing, scanning and other manual tasks normally performed by human workers.

“It’s more of the day-to-day operations that are going to get affected, I think,” Murdock said of the upcoming budget cuts….

read … Pandemic's budget shortfalls push states toward automation

COVID $28M for Kauai County to Pass Around

TGI: … Most of the funds, $11.1 million, will go toward economic and supply chain resiliency in the way of $9 million in grants distributed to agriculture ($2 million), tourism and economic diversification ($3 million) and non-profit organizations ($4 million).

The county is currently developing a request for proposal process with proposals evaluated by committees.

The county hopes to get grants out by mid-July, because by Dec. 11, the county has to certify anticipated expended money and return unused funds back to the state. CARES Act funds must be used by Dec. 30 of this year….

Under the resiliency heading, the county is also proposing $1 million each toward increased digital services for the public, like waiving online transition fees for residents, and other “digital equity efforts.” Overhead for the resiliency portion is budgeted at $100,000.

The county hopes to put about $9.25 million into directly toward programs like food support services ($1.5 million); mental health and domestic violence prevention grants to nonprofit ($1 million); and social-distanced summer fun and child caregiving ($500,000).

The largest single line-item on the budget put $5 million toward small business locals and other support grants. The process, to be determined, will possibly be part of a competitive review process or working with the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce on targeting areas of need.

In terms of preparedness, the county is setting aside $8,365,551. Part of this money will go toward the construction of a houseless shelter ($2 million).

The budget also sets aside money for law enforcement ($2.75 million), testing kids and other personal protection equipment ($1 million) and isolation vehicles ($250,000).

Overhead costs account for about 5% of the funds at $1,415,551, according to the proposed budget.

The county hopes to get a finalized request for proposal plan finalized and out next week….

CB: Hawaii Is Spending $16M In Federal Aid For Summer Learning Programs or something

read … Kauai Council talks proposed CARES Act funds budget

This Kauai Doctor Is Helping Revolutionize Drug Treatment For Inmates

CB: … The state is seeking a $650,000 federal grant to set up a pilot program for using medication-assisted treatment to address drug dependency in corrections facilities statewide. ….

A family medicine doctor in Waimea, a town of fewer than 2,000 people, Chelius said he has prescribed medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings for opioids, methamphetamine, alcohol or other drugs to more than 500 patients….

Medication-assisted treatment is not a miracle antidote to drug dependency, but studies have shown that medications like buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone and Sublocade, substantially reduce the risk of overdose deaths from opioid use and help prevent people from falling off treatment.

But for the sizable portion of Chelius’ patients who end up getting arrested while undergoing medication-assisted treatment, there’s a problem: In jail, the treatment stops….

Last year, the Hawaii Department of Public Safety submitted an application for a $650,000 federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to launch a statewide jail and prison-based medication-assisted treatment pilot project. The application is currently under review by The Hawaii Opioid Initiative Operational Working Group.

The federal grant money would allow DPS to hire an addiction treatment specialist, cover medication costs and provide physicians in Hawaii correctional facilities with the required waiver training that allows them to prescribe buprenorphine, which is a controlled substance.

All told, 88% of Hawaii jail and prison inmates show some need for substance abuse treatment, according to research by Dr. Timothy Wong, a research analyst at the Hawaii Interagency Council on Intermediate Sanctions. About 14% of inmates have substance abuse problems that qualify as severe, Wong said….

read … This Kauai Doctor Is Helping Revolutionize Drug Treatment For Inmates

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