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Thursday, April 16, 2020
April 16, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:43 PM :: 1092 Views

Rep Case, Legislators Challenge Ige on Union Pay Cuts

Sound the Horn Thursday 9AM

Class Action Filed Against Hawaii Department of Education for Discrimination Against Disabled Students

UHERO Webinar: How to Control the Coronavirus Epidemic and Bring Back Hawaiʻi’s Economy

HDoT Gives Dillingham Airfield Another Year

Kauai Announces New Standard Operating Procedures for Boards and Commissions meetings

Hawaii #1 State Hit Hardest by COVID-19’s Impact on Tourism

How Well-Funded Are Pension Plans in Your State?

HSTA: Pay Cuts a ‘Done Deal’ Take Effect May 1

HNN: …While Gov. David Ige said Wednesday no decisions have been made, teachers union President Corey Rosenlee says discussions with the administration seemed to indicate it was a done deal, and that cuts could take effect as early as May 1….

Governor Ige says the state’s main sources of revenue have been drastically reduced because of the pandemic.

“We anticipate having to cut $1.5 billion over the next 15 months, which is a significant portion of the state’s budget,” Ige said. “We are looking at an emergency situation.”

He says he is not considering tax increases, and he says none of the more than $860 million the state expects in federal aid can be used for existing employees and programs…. 

(NOTE: Ed Case disagrees with that last point.)

FLASHBACK -- Remember These? 

read … Done Deal

HART officials project $80 million less in revenues for 2021—More City Borrowing Expected  

SA:  … The Federal Transit Administration has been withholding about $744 million in federal funding for the project until a public-private partnership or P3 contract is awarded for the final segment of the 20-mile, East Kapolei-to-Ala Moana line.

But the city and HART recently decided to delay awarding of the multibillion-dollar contract after bidders said they need more time to prepare their proposals in light of the drastic turn in economic conditions, Robbins told reporters last week.

Today, Robbins told the Council bids that its April 22 deadline to submit bids has now been extended three months – until July 22.

The lost state tax revenues makes it more important that roughly $100 million of the $744 million allotment expected from the FTA come in soon.

“That is certainly going to put a strain based on the fact that we would then need to use financing in order to cover those cash flows,” Lohr said. “That puts us in a position where we will be having to then finance significantly more cash flow in order to keep the project from halting which is certainly something that the FTA is not interested in, having to halt the project.”

“We are looking at how we can cover the gap in our funding sources,” Lohr said (grasping at straws). “We don’t know yet what the stimulus bill would look like but that’s certainly something we’re hoping will be a way for us to kind of cover that gap.”…

Panos: US Reliance On Mass Transit Explains A Big Part Of The Epidemic

read … HART officials project $80 million less in revenues for 2021

Unemployment: DLIR Shoveling Money out the Door 

SA: … After being overwhelmed by more than 200,000 Hawaii unemployment claims since March, state officials have begun to ramp up payments.

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reported Wednesday that it issued $11.2 million in payouts last week to unemployed workers, up from $4.1 million in each of the prior two weeks and $2.9 million in each of the first three weeks of March.

During the first two days of this week, another $11 million in payouts were made….

NR: Highlights of April 13-14 meetings of the Hawai‘i State Senate Special Committee on COVID-19

read … Bonfire

With tourism in coronavirus tatters, Hawaii gets a negative outlook from Moody’s 

BB:  …Moody's Investors Service revised the state’s outlook to negative from stable and affirmed its Aa1 rating on $7.2 billion of general obligation bonds.

“We expect a sudden and severe decline in the state's tax revenues as a result of the rapid downturn in visitor arrivals and the negative economic effects of the state's own efforts to stem the outbreak,” Moody’s wrote.

“We expect that the decline in fiscal 2020 and 2021 will be more severe than in other states and the recovery beyond fiscal 2021 will be slower due to the significance of the tourism industry in Hawaii and the industry's dependence on air travel,” Moody’s wrote.

The new negative outlook also applies to other debt linked to the state’s GO rating, including $460 million of Aa1-rated highway revenue bonds and $1.9 billion of Aa2-rated certificates of participation.

The state government’s position, according to Moody’s, is supported by its strong financial position and liquidity entering the crisis, as well as its strong fiscal governance, though it will be challenged by its high fixed costs for debt service, pensions and other retirement benefits.

read … With tourism in coronavirus tatters, Hawaii gets a negative outlook

Loosening stay-at-home orders could come as early as May

KHON: …“I’m hoping the next 15 days if everyone listens, we can start relaxing some of the things — not everything — throttle back a little bit…and slowly get the economy going. We test and watch and monitor, and if it doesn’t spike erratically, maybe we throttle back a little bit more, and start slowly moving back into the next color,” Hara said.

In order to do that, people have to buckle down now.

“I’m begging everyone out there — the community follow the social distancing…I go out running and I still see people out there and congregating in the small parks right next to each other. I was at a teleconference and I see people hugging each other. We gotta stop that for now. We gotta keep that distance so we don’t spread,” Hara said.

Hara said focusing on responsiveness and protecting those most vulnerable in the population are vital steps in recovery.

Another concern is travel and how that will be handled once restrictions are loosened.

Green said that travel will be handled differently.

“The preference will be to have (travelers) test before they come in and show a document that they are either immune or negative for the last 48 hours. That in my mind is the best approach as of now,” Green explained.

But Green said they aren’t capable of doing that yet….

read … Loosening stay-at-home orders could come as early as May

Kaiser Coronavirus Experts Fly In For Damage Control At Maui Hospital

CB: … Kaiser Permanente is sending members of its national COVID-19 command center and infectious disease experts to its affiliate hospital on Maui, where a coronavirus cluster outbreak has prompted public safety concerns.

There are now 36 people linked to the cluster at Maui Memorial Medical Center. Those infected include 27 employees and nine patients, Hawaii News Now reported Tuesday, citing a letter from the hospital CEO.

There has been no widespread testing of hospital staff who do not have symptoms and health care workers interviewed by Civil Beat say they are fearful and stressed that no one knows who might have been infected because the hospital was slow to require health care workers to wear personal protective equipment and also told some staff not to wear it.

Civil Beat interviewed multiple health care workers earlier this week who described an erosion of trust and communication between hospital staff and executives over safety protocols….

read … Kaiser Coronavirus Experts Fly In For Damage Control At Maui Hospital

Coronavirus Site For Oahu’s Homeless Will Not Offer Testing

CB: …A facility in Iwilei that was announced as a one-stop, walk-in site where homeless people could be screened, tested and quarantined for COVID-19 is not providing screening or testing after all.

Instead, homeless people need to be screened and tested at a medical facility, such as a hospital, and then transported to the city-owned building on Kaaahi Street. There, they can await their test results and quarantine if they’re positive.

While the state Department of Health says it now makes sense to focus more on quarantining because enough testing is done, one of the doctors leading the state’s COVID-19 response said no one is making a systematic attempt to screen and test the homeless, leaving the state vulnerable.

(NOTE: DoH is always against testing.)

“It was supposed to be the first step to address what is our biggest potential crisis that could clog our beds in the hospital and the intensive care units,” said Scott Miscovich, a doctor who was supposed to help run the facility’s medical care but resigned in frustration….

The facility, which opened on April 1 as a “medical triage and quarantine center,” had only two clients last week. Two weeks after opening, there were fewer than two dozen people at what is now called the Temporary Quarantine & Isolation Center. The building has the capacity for around 50 people if clients double up in rooms….

“Clusters are the most dangerous thing we will be facing in the future across our state,” Miscovich said. “I’m very concerned this virus is already spreading through our homeless shelters.”

In San Francisco's largest homeless shelter, over 90 clients and 10 staffers have the disease in what is likely the country’s largest outbreak in a single shelter, according to The Guardian. In New York City, at least 27 homeless people have died of the coronavirus, ABC News reported. The virus has also spread through a dozen shelters in King County, Washington, according to The Seattle Times….

Providing on-site testing was supposed to relieve hospitals of unnecessary intakes, Miscovich said.

“The emergency room is not the place to send random people for screening and testing,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a doctor who co-founded H4 with Miscovich, said the city and state deserve credit for their effort to establish an isolation and quarantine center. He noted that homeless people can walk up to one of the mass drive-in testing sites….

read … Coronavirus Site For Oahu’s Homeless Will Not Offer Testing

State to lease hotels for COVID-19 isolation

KITV: … People who've tested positive for COVID-19 or awaiting their result could soon be allowed to self-isolate in hotel rooms.

Hawaii's Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson told KITV4 the state is close to deals with five hotels --one on O'ahu, Maui and Kauai, two on The Big Island. When fully functioning, the state would be operating wings of the hotels as self-isolation rooms where people can quarantine if they are positive without requiring hospitalization or awaiting test results.

Anderson said the goal is to decrease the chance of spreading COVID-19 in one household.

"Individuals who need to be isolated because they’ve been found positive but live in a small household, a place where they cannot socially distance, we need a place where those people can go so they don’t infect other people in their families," said Anderson.

"In fact in Kona just this last week we had a situation where six household members were infected because one [COVID-19 positive] individual was living there in a very crowded condition," he added. …

read … State to lease hotels for COVID-19 isolation

DoH Investigating Six COVID Clusters

SA: The investigations include three employees at Wahiawa Health who tested positive, more than 30 cases at Maui Memorial Medical Center and a dozen cases connected to two McDonald’s locations in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. Seven infected crew members were also found on the Pride of America cruise ship docked in Honolulu.

Health director Bruce Anderson did not provide details on the other groups of cases under investigation.

The state’s tally of coronavirus cases climbed by 13 to 530 on Wednesday, with new cases reported at West Loch Elderly Village in Ewa Beach and at Hale Makua Health Services on Maui, which was related to the Maui Memorial Medical Center cases. Both facilities serve the elderly population, most vulnerable to the disease….

read … Six Clusters

Big Island COVID-19 test numbers continue decline

HTH:  … Just more than 500 people have been tested at Hilo Medical Center’s drive-through testing site since it opened nearly a month ago: 162 people from March 17-20, 133 people from March 23-37, 89 people from March 30-April 3, 72 people from April 6-9 and 45 so far this week.

Meanwhile, 33 people have been tested at a screening and testing site at Puna Community Medical Center in Pahoa, including 20 the week of March 23-27, five the week of March 30-April 3 and eight the week of April 6-11. No tests have been performed at the site this week.

Numbers trended up in the first couple of weeks but have trended down in the past week and a half, said East Hawaii Regional Chief Information Officer Kris Wilson.

Just less than 200 tests have been completed in the hospital itself, Wilson said.  Only one of those tests, in a travel-related case reported last month, was positive…

COVID-19 Drive-Through Testing in Hilo on Sunday, April 19

read … COVID-19 test numbers continue decline

COVID Means Lifeguards are in Trucks, not on Beach

SA: … Most of the 20-plus rescues Honolulu Ocean Safety responded to today were on the north shore, where there was a rising swell in areas including Laniakea and Chuns reef….

The last of the rescues was made at 7 p.m. at Sunset Beach.

Enright said in the email that Ocean Safety works from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. islandwide but that lifeguards worked overtime on the north shore.

She said there is a pre-COVID-19 number of lifeguards on duty, but they are stationed in trucks rather than on the beach. (Why?  How does being in a truck reduce COVID?) She advised ocean users to know the conditions of the ocean but would rather they opt to stay home.

read … Ocean Safety makes most of Oahu’s 20 rescues on North Shore during rising swell

Parents Banned from Meeting Kids in Foster Care

CB: … Hawaii, like many states, has called off in-person visits because of the coronavirus pandemic, though some think the ban goes too far…..

read … Zoom Replaces Hugs For Hawaii Parents With Children In Foster Care

Hawaii marine monument expansion’s impact on fishing debated 5 years later

SS: … The financial effects on fishermen — and whether the conservation gains were worth the cost — are still being debated today, with recent research offering conflicting answers. It’s a lingering question for fishermen now struggling with new financial disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic….

read … Hawaii marine monument expansion’s impact on fishing debated 5 years later

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