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Saturday, March 28, 2020
March 28, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:47 PM :: 2714 Views

Let the Sun Shine In!

COVID Relief Bill Directs Minimum $1.25B to Hawaii

Is Seattle a warning against Hawaii raising its minimum wage?

COVID Recession: Hawaii, Nevada Likely to be Hit Hardest

Attorney General Uses COVID as Excuse to Do What they Have Been Planning all Along -- Let Lots and Lots of Criminals out of Hawaii Jails

Epidemic: US Death Toll tops 24K (but its the flu so ignore this and continue panicking)

Is the Coronavirus as Deadly as They Say?

228 Candidates File for Election

DoE: Modify 12th Grade Graduation Requirements for COVID

Hawaii Public Employees May Lose Out On Pay Raises Due To Virus

CB: … Several measures that appropriated funds to cover those raises are still pending in the Legislature, which adjourned indefinitely last week in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.

An estimated 28,300 public employees, all represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association, won’t be getting pay bumps or retroactive pay increases if those bills don’t move. University of Hawaii faculty also won’t receive a small salary increase covered under their contract.

After the Legislature voted to suspend the 2020 session March 16, House Speaker Scott Saiki said lawmakers would only reconvene in the event of an emergency. But when Sen. Clarence Nishihara tested positive for COVID-19 March 19, lawmakers shuttered their offices indefinitely.

Even after the Council on Revenues lowered the projection for state tax collections by $300 million earlier this month, the Legislature was still expected to fund the new agreements.

But that can’t happen as long as the Legislature is in limbo. Funding for increases requires legislative approval, according to the state law on collective bargaining….

House Bills 2302, 2303, 2304, 2306, 2307, 2308, and 2309 would fund the salary increases for units under HGEA. All but HB 2304 could have been voted on as early as March 18.

In a video message posted on the union’s website, HGEA Executive Director Randy Perreira says the union plans to work with the state to address any shortage of personal protective equipment and is in the process of filing for hazard pay.

Perreira didn’t address the salary increases in the message…. (Translation: He expects legislators to fund the raises without batting an eyelash.)

There’s still money in the state’s budget to pay the base salary for all public employees since lawmakers approved the biennium budget last year….

read … Hawaii Public Employees May Lose Out On Pay Raises Due To Virus

Kauai County Property Values & Property Tax Revenues to Drop 20%

KGI: … Real estate values on the island are expected to drop, and that could look like $30 million in reduced revenue for the county as just another part of the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Derek Kawakami shared this projection with the County Council at its first budget meeting earlier this week.

This number is from the county Department of Finance Real Property Assessment Division, which is projecting a 20% drop in real estate taxes in fiscal year 2022….

read … COVID-19 hits county budget

50% of Businesses have Closed or Reduced Hours

HTH: … the business community’s diagnosis was “horrendous,” said Wendy Laros, executive director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce. In the hotel industry alone, more than 3,500 jobs have been lost, while state Sen. Kai Kahele said statewide unemployment has leapt from 2% to 10%.

Miles Yoshioka, executive officer for the Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, said a survey of chamber businesses found that about 50% of respondents remain open, and another 30% are open but in a limited capacity.

Other survey questions found that more than 30% of respondents have had to lay off staff, 48% have implemented work-from-home policies, and 67% request a suspension of the General Excise Tax to alleviate the effects of their loss of business.

Ross Birch, Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau director, said only five major hotels remain open on the island, including the Grand Naniloa and the Hilo Hawaiian. But as visitors on the island return home and fewer travelers arrive — only five passengers arrived on the first of six scheduled flights to the island on Friday — some of those hotels will also likely close in the coming weeks….

HTH: Hotels close doors: Majority of Kona, Kohala properties shutter, furlough staff due to COVID-19

read … Business, community, medical leaders paint grim picture of virus impact

Councilmember: Crisis is an Opportunity to Make Maui into Socialist Utopia

MN: … many of us in Maui County have for some time highlighted Hawaii’s lack of economic diversity and our shortcomings in food security, this crisis has exposed these vulnerabilities, and the sense of urgency has never been greater….

(Translation: Corona is just an excuse to push the same agenda we always push.)

We are seeing our local tourism-related businesses and staff being hit hardest by the coronavirus response, including hotel, restaurant, retail and activity-company workers. The response –which experts agree demands vigilant social distancing, testing and quarantine of all exposed persons — is not an option. I commend Mayor Victorino for his strict mandates in our county.

The mayor reported to the County Council that he is relying heavily on (well-known conspiracy theorist and hysteria activist) Dr. Lorrin Pang of the Department of Health and other experts, which is comforting…

The upcoming budget session will be challenging, and we must focus on people over profits. For those who join me in the struggle for resiliency, please support the efforts to create and fund a stronger foundation for Maui Nui….

The glaring vulnerability brought to light by the coronavirus pandemic is food security. (No.  There has been no disruption to shipments and there is no likelihood of disruption unless all our money runs out because nobody is working.)  It is critical that Maui County invest time, money and infrastructure toward sustainable agriculture, to ensure food is available and accessible for consumption, and to create opportunities for export. Intensifying local regenerative farming would not only increase healthy food security, but also lower our carbon footprint. While officials have declared that there currently is no issue with shipments to our islands, the time to plan for potential disruptions in food supply is now. This means growing, not hoarding!

Our current circumstances underscore the need to reset and recommit to our priorities, to develop greater economic and agricultural diversity, and to bolster our self-reliance as a county….

PBS: Corona Shutdown will Save Planet from Global Warming—but only if we can keep it going for a year

MN: $2M in County help on the way for 6,000 out-of-work Mauians

read … Words from a Crony Capitalist

Now is not the time for political opportunity

Cataluna: … That overused (and often disputed) TED Talk line about how the Chinese word for “crisis” is connected to the word for “opportunity” has clearly taken root in the minds of too many people who make a living in elected positions.

While believing that something good can come out of bad circumstances is a positive way to deal with misfortune, that approach can too easily become conveniently self-serving.

This crisis that we’re in right now is not an opportunity to build a public image. It’s not an opportunity to campaign. It is not a time for self-promotion or for trying to outdo rivals.

Not pointing fingers at David Ige, Kirk Caldwell, Josh Green, any mayoral candidate, any neighbor island mayor, either of the Gabbards or any politician in particular, but generally nodding in the direction of all public servants….

At the end of all this, at the other side of this period of fear and confusion and sickness and helplessness, there will indeed be those who will be remembered in the community for the great things they did during this time, and their laudable deeds will be selfless deeds and those heroes will be reluctant heroes. The bravest among us are the ones who don’t care whether anyone ever knows what they did….

read … Now is not the time for political opportunity

10-Day delay in coronavirus test results

CB: … Mark Wasielewski, president of Diagnostic Laboratory Services, did send a statement by email, noting DLS has processed COVID-19 tests on island since March 13 and has the capacity to conduct as many as 180 tests per day on island.

“Results are ready the same or the next day for patients run locally at DLS,” he said. “We are following a nationally accepted prioritization process that puts hospital patients first, and then we fill the rest of our capacity continuing to follow the defined prioritization criteria.”

Any “overflow” test orders are shipped to two mainland lab partners, and those may take three to 10 days, he said.

Dr. Edward Desmond, director of the State Laboratories Division, said earlier this week that all clinical labs in the state have the collective capability to test just under 1,000 people per day. The private laboratories, with mainland partners, have conducted 5,379 of the 5,747 to date….

Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, who joined the meeting by webcam as he awaited his own results, asked if the 1,000 tests per day capacity was sufficient. He, along with senators Donovan Dela Cruz and Kurt Fevella also await COVID-19 results.

State epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said demand “seems to be met as far as we can tell.”

“As far as we’re aware, they (private laboratories) are ready,” she added. “I’m sorry your tests got sent to the mainland before they were ready. We have testing capacity now in the state. But there’s still issues with supplies. Dr. Desmond has been communicating with laboratories and they’ve said they are experiencing continued intermittent supply issues.”

Nationally, testing has been hard to come by, and in places where the outbreak has worsened, some public health systems have advised doctors to not bother testing.

Some Hawaii doctors have called on the health department to broaden its capacity and criteria for testing….

read … Many COVID-19 Test Results Are Taking Up To 10 Days To Come Back

Quarantine Protocols Will Soon Extend To Interisland Travel—Medical Screenings for Arriving Passengers?

CB: …State senators also press for medical screenings of all arriving passengers to Hawaii, not just a 14-day self quarantine….So far, there haven’t been any reported cases of COVID-19 on Molokai or Lanai….

SA: Hawaii leaders working on temperature testing at airports and restrictions for neighbor island air traffic  -- Hara said the director general of Taiwan helped convince him that thermal screening was worth it. The director general told him that it had a 40% success rate with catching travelers with the coronavirus.

KHON: Maui mayor calls on stricter inter-island travel restrictions

read … Quarantine Protocols Will Soon Extend To Interisland Travel

Waikiki bartender with coronavirus on life support in Kaiser Moanalua hospital

SA: … Ewa Beach resident Lee-Jacob “Coby” Torda is fighting for his life after contracting the coronavirus.

The 37-year-old Waikiki bartender is on life support at Kaiser Permanente’s Moanalua Medical Center.

“He’s pretty much the same. He’s not back sliding but it’s very slow,” his mother, Peggy Torda-Saballa, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Torda started feeling sick on March 9. After coming home from work, he immediately wanted to rest because he had been coughing and developed a headache, his mother said.

His symptoms progressed, with fevers as high as 104 degrees, and he went to the Queen’s Medical Center to get a coronavirus test on March 15.

While awaiting the test results, he was directed to stay home and treat the fever, drink lots of fluids and rest. By March 20, his spouse noticed he was having a hard time breathing and the fever would not break, she said.

“It would go down to 100 to 101 for an hour and a half (with medicine) and shoot right back up to 103 sometimes close to 104,” she said.

The family suspects the bartender contracted COVID-19 while working among tourists at a Waikiki bar in the heart of state’s largest tourist hub….

On March 21, his family took him to the hospital and doctors told them that “he’s really, really sick” and would need to be intubated. His positive COVID-19 test result was confirmed Sunday….  (That’s 7 days later)

Doctors haven’t given the family a prognosis for Torda, who lives with his mother, father and spouse. The rest of the family is so far asymptomatic.

“We’ve all been home, confined and quarantined ourselves and thus far … nobody has been showing any signs of illness,” Torda-Saballa said. “We are fortunate.”…

read … Waikiki bartender with coronavirus on life support in Kaiser Moanalua hospital

Hawaii health director says some physicians ‘closing up their practices’

SA: … Anderson said there have been “quite a few private physicians closing up their practices.”

“It has come to us anecdotally that people are calling doctors they’ve seen for years … only to find out they’ve stopped seeing patients,” he said, adding that residents who do not have a doctor anymore can contact a community health center. “Many of them are not used to dealing with infectious disease issues. Many aren’t used to wearing (personal protective equipment) or don’t have any supplies in stock. It puts an increased burden on other medical facilities, hospitals and others.”

State officials, preparing for a surge in demand for medical care, are considering converting the Hawai‘i Convention Center and Neal S. Blaisdell Center into health care facilities and adding a 14-day mandatory quarantine rule for those traveling interisland to match the requirements for domestic travelers.

In addition, a quarantine facility is being set up in Iwilei for up to 60 medically fragile homeless awaiting COVID-19 test results or who have tested positive for disease. Authorities are also identifying hotels on every island that can be repurposed into quarantine stations for people without homes….

KHON: Unforeseen COVID-19 private practice crunch concerning to Department of Health

PBN: Hawaii hospitals postpone procedures, seek supplies, update visiting policies

read … Hawaii health director says some physicians ‘closing up their practices’

Decrease in flights is packing a punch for state exporters

HNN: … Eddie Flores, founder of L&L restaurants, says the lack of flights are making it harder and costlier to supply the company’s 150 mainland franchisees.

“Since Hawaiian Airlines cut down the flights to Las Vegas ... we actually have to ship to California, then truck it over. So you can imagine how much more it costs us to send our products to the mainland,” said Flores, who noted that L&L’s sales have dropped 50 percent since the city and state ordered restaurants to shutdown their dining-in services.

“This is one of the toughest times I’ve been through in business. I’ve never seen anything like this before -- 9/11 is nothing compared to what’s happening right now.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic, there were about 400 domestic and international flights a week at Hawaii’s airports. That’s now down to about 80.

But help may be one the way. Under the federal bailout, the airlines will increase the number of flights from current levels.

In exchange for financial support, they’ve agreed to fly the minimum number of flights spelled out in their collective bargaining agreements, said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, (D) Hawaii.

“So there will still be the capacity to ship both by sea and by air. Everybody is going to have access to what they need," he said.

MN: Maui arrivals down to 136 Thursday

read … Decrease in flights is packing a punch for state exporters

Homeless COVID Testing Center to Open in Iwilei

CB: … Homeless people on Oahu who need to be tested for COVID-19, isolated while awaiting test results or quarantined with the illness will have access to a new medical triage facility in Iwilei starting Wednesday.

The city-owned building at 524 Kaaahi Street was meant to be the new location of the Sand Island Treatment Center, but officials adjusted plans when the pandemic hit. Hawaii had 120 confirmed cases as of Friday.

The triage center could help prevent an influx of homeless patients in intensive care units at hospitals, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said….

The building has capacity for up to 26 patients allowing it to serve up to 600 homeless participants during a 120-day grant period, according to the city.

The facility will also provide urgent care services 24/7 to individuals who walk in, regardless of their insurance status, the city said.

This will replace medical services that have been available at the Chinatown Joint Outreach Center, also run by H4. The center will continue to offer social services but not medical care, according to Scott Miscovich, one of the founders of H4….

HNN: Closed park bathrooms lead to a big mess ... and concern about a broader health risk

KITV: Displaced hotel workers to staff Honolulu's new COVID-19 test site for homeless patients

read … Honolulu Steps Up Effort To Protect Homeless Population From Virus

Virus clouds prospects for Hawaii’s mental health reforms

KITV: … Among the business Hawaii lawmakers left unfinished when they abruptly suspended the Legislature to help slow the spread of the coronavirus were proposals to improve psychiatric care for the state’s mentally ill.

Lawmakers had convened with a new sense of urgency on this topic after a Honolulu man shot and killed two police officers, fatally attacked his landlord and burned down several houses in a morning of stunning violence in January. The man’s neighbors had sought restraining orders against him, detailing his erratic, violent behavior in court filings.

Yet just two months later, uncertainty is clouding the bills’ prospects….

Ed Mersereau, who leads the state Department of Health’s behavioral health division, noted that historically, the mental health care pendulum in Hawaii and the rest of the U.S. has swung from relatively easily committing people to a very hands-off approach.

“These measures are designed to bring us a little bit more of a middle ground,” Mersereau said….

Mersereau hopes the state will address the virus and mental health care in tandem because helping the mentally ill is also a way to help limit the pandemic. Many struggling with mental illness are living on the streets and coming into close contact with people with substance abuse disorders and other conditions that put them at risk, he said.

“If it becomes more of an issue and community spread becomes the issue, we’re going to see the mental health and substance abuse populations pretty hard-hit, and those are going to be hotbeds for additional community transmission,” he said.

One bill would create what are called stabilization beds, where patients could spend about a week getting treatment….

Hawaii lacks such beds even though Mersereau said not having them is analogous to a medical hospital not having a recovery room where patients can go after spending time in intensive care.

Their absence means patients are often released from the emergency room to their families, the streets or a homeless shelter if they’re not sick enough to warrant acute psychiatric care. But these patients often wind up returning to the emergency room soon after because they’re not yet well enough to be in the community.

The medical field calls this phenomenon “bounce back” or “revolving door.” It burdens hospitals, emergency rooms, paramedics, police and the patients themselves.

Mersereau said he’d like about 250 stabilization beds across the state. He’s already identified space in underused state facilities, including Leahi Hospital in Honolulu and a former hospital in Kealakekua on the Big Island, where they can be located….

One measure named after the two officers killed by Jerry Hanel in January would help authorities guide people into treatment.

(NOTE: Hanel killed 3 people and himself, COVID has killed zero in Hawaii.)

“Tiffany and Kaulike’s Law” would allow police officers and paramedics with special training to determine that an individual should be taken to a psychiatric facility or to a crisis care center for further evaluation if they believe that person is imminently dangerous to him or herself or to others. Mental health emergency workers are currently authorized to make such decisions, while police can take that step only if an individual is threatening or attempting suicide.

read … Virus clouds prospects for Hawaii’s mental health reforms

Joe Biden campaign announces slate of endorsements from Hawaii Democrats

SA: … The Hawaii for Biden campaign today announced endorsements from dozens of elected Democrats and other community leaders from across the state including House Speaker Scott Saiki, Senate President Ron Kouchi and two former lieutenant governors, Doug Chin and Shan Tsutsui.

Also backing Biden is former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Kauai County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar, according to the Biden campaign announcement. The endorsements also include Lorraine Akiba, former state director of Labor and Industrial Relations and a former member of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Former Hawaii Govs. George Ariyoshi, John Waihee, Ben Cayetano, and Neil Abercrombie, have already announced they are supporting Biden…

Biden’s opponent Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders swept the Hawaii Democrats’ presidential preference poll voting in 2016, but it is unclear whether Sanders will be as successful in Hawaii this year.

This is the first time Hawaii Democrats are using mail-in voting and ranked-choice ballots, and it isn’t exactly clear yet how that will affect turnout or the vote tallies. Nearly 34,000 state Democrats voted in walk-in voting in 2016.

The Hawaii Democrats’ voting is also complicated somewhat because Hawaii U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will be on the ballot. Gabbard, a well-known figure in Hawaii politics, withdrew from the presidential race on March 19 and also endorsed Biden….

The latest Biden endorsements include state House Majority Leader Rep. Della Au Belatti; Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz; House Finance Committee Chairwoman Sylvia Luke; and state Sens. Lorraine Inouye, Michelle Kidani and Laura Thielen.

Also endorsing Biden are state Reps. Stacelynn Eli, Sharon Har, Troy Hashimoto, Aaron Johanson, Sam Kong, Scot Matayoshi, John Mizuno, Dee Morikawa, Nadine Nakamura, Takashi Ohno, Gregg Takayama and Jimmy Tokioka.

The list also includes former state Sens. Bobby Bunda, Brickwood Galuteria, and Pohai Ryan; and former state Reps. Marilyn Lee, David Morihara and Hermina Morita….

read … Joe Biden campaign announces slate of endorsements from Hawaii Democrats

Hawaii issues RFQ for P3 partner to redevelop Aloha Stadium

PBN: … One option would leave Aloha Stadium in its existing location but replace it with a new building through an incremental redevelopment. The stadium would be downsized from its existing 50,000 seats to 35,000 seats in all three options presented in an environmental impact statement preparation notice published in September by the state Office of Environmental Quality Control….

SA: State issues request for qualifications for new Aloha Stadium project

SA: Building of new Aloha Stadium seen as vital economic stimulus

read … Hawaii issues RFQ for P3 partner to redevelop Aloha Stadium

Should Trees Be Planted to Remove Carbon from the Atmosphere or be Burned to Produce Renewable Electricity?

IM: … Hu Honua wants to clearcut forests on lands owned by Parker Ranch and Kamehameha School to generate electricity and to be given preferential rates for stimulating agricultural activities.

Hawai`i Electric Light Company and Hu Honua have been before the Public Utilities Commission in four proceedings: the first two were a waiver from competitive bidding and a power purchase agreement. Both filings were approved by the Commission.

The deal fell apart. Hu Honua filed an antitrust federal lawsuit against HELCO, NextEra and others, and then entered into mediation. HELCO then filed an amended and revised power purchase agreement with the Commission which was also approved by the Commission.

Life of the Land successfully appealed the approval to the Hawai`i Supreme Court. The Commission then reopened the proceeding last summer.

All testimony, exhibits, and information requests and responses have been filed in this fourth proceeding.

The Commission will shortly issue a procedural schedule to provide dates for the next steps: the evidentiary hearing and the post-hearing briefs.

In the meantime, Life of the Land (LOL) filed a Motion to Compel yesterday.

Hu Honua BioEnergy LLC believes that what is on the table is how Hu Honua compares to a fossil fuel plant and that externalities are not on the table.

Life of the Land believes that what is on the table is how Hu Honua compares to a renewable energy alternative and that externalities are on the table….

read … Should Trees Be Planted to Remove Carbon from the Atmosphere or be Burned to Produce Renewable Electricity?

Interior Official Pushing To Renew COFA Treaties This Year Despite Obstacles

CB: … Funding agreements in the treaties, known as the Compacts of Free Association, are set to expire in 2023 for the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

A separate COFA agreement with the Republic of Palau will expire in 2024.

But Doug Domenech, assistant secretary for insular and international affairs with the U.S. Department of the Interior, said he is optimistic that a 20-year COFA extension could be secured this year.

“It’s a notional goal,” he said earlier this month. “And the timing is different for Palau. But at least for the RMI and FSM, we would very much like to try to get that done this year if at all possible.” …

read … Interior Official Pushing To Renew COFA Treaties This Year Despite Obstacles

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