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Saturday, August 8, 2020
August 8, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:27 PM :: 4721 Views

DoE: No In-person Oahu Schools for First Four Weeks

After Five Months of ACLU Dreams, First Inmate Finally Tests Positive for COVID

Hawaii Lowest Physician Medicare Acceptance Rate in USA

COVID Count 223 new cases out of 2,698 tests

During unannounced visit, senators find only Five Contract Tracers on the job at DoH

HNN: … Fed up with a perceived lack of information about the state’s response to COVID-19, lawmakers on Friday made an unannounced visit to the Health Department and found contact tracers ― on the front lines of containing the virus ― overwhelmed and overworked.

One of the investigators that senators spoke to was responsible for tracking nearly 200 cases.

The lawmakers, who serve on the state Senate’s COVID-19 task force, have grown increasingly frustrated about how the state Health Department is handling the pandemic ― and a worsening surge in cases. They’ve also pleaded with the agency to bring on more contact tracers, something the department has long maintained they didn’t need to do because they had enough….

Here’s one jaw-dropping exchange Kim had with an investigator handling 131 COVID-19 cases. She acknowledged that there was no way to appropriately contact trace with such a large caseload:

(Editor’s Note: DoH desperately needs an experienced telemarketing manager.)

Kim: 131 cases, how are you able to track all of them?

Investigator: I’m not.

Kim: And what about your supervisor, do they know you have this many cases?

Investigator: I’m pretty sure we all do.

Kim: But we asked them and they said they don’t know.

Investigator: I asked this morning and we’re basically prioritizing those over 65 (years old) because they are the high risk cases, so then there needs to be a way for us to sort that out who are actually the ones over 65.

Kim: And what about the ones who aren’t over 65?

Investigator: I got a call from someone yesterday saying it was day 10 and no one ever contacted them and I was like ‘oh well he made it through I guess.'

A few cubicles away, the senators spoke with another investigator handling nearly 200 cases.

Investigator: Well, right now, I have 192.

Kim: What? 192?

Investigator: But I haven’t had a chance to go back and close cases that are probably already past their release date.

State Sen. Michelle Kidani: Are you guys able to get to them (cases) quickly?

Investigator: We have only seven for today, so I think we’ve already gone through most of them with the public health nurses, so I think that we’ve done that. But some days I get 20 or 30 and I can’t get through 30 in one day.

Kidani: So how long before you get to them? Three or four days?

Investigator: Yeah, whenever. It’s just whenever the nurses get through that list and it depends on how many contacts they have right because one cases equals at least one or more contacts.

After being led through a series of cluttered offices, the senators were then take to a room of five National Guard members doing actual contact tracing, which is far below the 105 tracers the state says it has on staff.

Although the Health Department says it has access to nearly 450 contact tracers trained through a University of Hawaii program, Park contends bringing them on is not that easy.  (Dr No strikes again.  Loser talk.)

“You cannot just take someone because they have clinical background or epi background,” Park said.  (Dr No strikes again.  Loser talk.)

“They have to be trained on what we do. If you’ve never done what we do, you can’t just start day one, you are gonna cause more problems than help.”  (Dr No strikes again.  Loser talk.)

Kim agrees the onboarding process can be challenging. However, she feels the DOH has had ample time to mobilize. “Yeah, it’s not easy to bring on 200 people immediately, but it’s been since April and then June, when they had the cases,” Kim said. “You would think that we would be getting into it.”…

Late Friday, after Hawaii News Now aired this story exclusively, Lt. Gov. Josh Green called for changes at the Department of Health.

“All I heard was excuses tonight from Dr. Park as she finished her interview,” said Green, a practicing physician. “It’s not acceptable because there are people that are sick, there are people that are afraid, there are people that are in the hospital in critical condition. It’s our job as the state to trace all of those cases and prevent extra illness.”

(Translation: Fire Dr Park.)

Flashback: VIDEO: Hawaii DoH Official Goes on 10-minute Rant Against Corona Testing

read … During unannounced visit, senators find a health department overwhelmed by COVID-19 surge

DoH Leadership: Senators Visit ‘Reprehensible’

KHON: … "[State Epidemiologist] Dr. [Sarah] Park is a smart person, I'm sure that she wants to do the right thing as a health official, but this job is too great for her," Lt. Governor Green told KITV4.

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green told KITV4 Friday night he would like to see a change in leadership of the effort to acquire and manage contact tracers.

"I don't ever ask for anyone to be terminated, but there needs to be a new executive team put in charge of that effort," Green told KITV4.

Lt. Governor Green told KITV4 multiple whistle blowers in the Department of Health came forward with stories of panic attacks and needing to take sick leave because the number of contact tracers was so few.

"We've been asking for months, 'Is there a proper team contact tracing this disease of COVID-19?' We were told over and over again of this enormous capacity Dr. Park put together. It wasn't true. It became completely evident right in front of our eyes and excuses were made immediately," said Green.

A group of Senators walked into the Department of Health unannounced Friday to investigate the true contact tracing capacity. According to Lt. Governor Green and Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, who attended the surprise visit, they were dismayed to find only five contact tracers.

Green told KITV4 the contact tracers working had between 180 and 200 cases they were tasked with tracing.

Dr. Bruce Anderson, Director of the Department of Health told KITV4 he is still gathering facts about the incident, but called the Senators' unannounced visit "reprehensible." …

Meanwhile: Health Director: Transpacific travel "Needs to be put off for at least a couple of months"

read … Reprehensible.

DoH Taking too Long to Notify Micronesian COVID-Positive Cases

HNN: … The group, made up of Micronesians, Samoans, and Tongans have been hardest hit and say they’ve been ignored.

“If it spreads among us rapidly and gets out of control, we will be losing more people,” said Jedrikdrik Paul who spoke on behalf of Micronesian people.

The Pacific Islander group has the highest rate of infection in Hawaii, a University of Hawaii study showed. The data reported by Hawaii News Now in July showed that they have more than 527 coronavirus patients out of every 100-thousand people, more than any other ethnic groups.

And new numbers show they made up 38% of all the cases the last week of July….

Paul gave examples of patients who weren’t contacted for days, “From the time that they were identified as positive to the (time) that the Department of Health reaches out to them, it’s just taking too long.”…

(Translation: Typical HGEA.)

Headrick Hunkin, a Pastor at Lighthouse Outreach Center said the data cannot be hidden from the public out of fear, “Let’s be straight up with the community, let’s be honest. They need to know the statistics, they need to know the breakdown.”…

read … Pacific islanders say they’re being ignored by state in ‘war’ against spread of coronavirus

DoH Wastes $250K CARES Funds on Marketing Firm

HNN:  … U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz called the use of federal CARES Act dollars on a public relations firm wrong-headed. The funding was meant to provide emergency relief to states as they respond to the pandemic.

“While this may be allowed under the CARES Act, it is unwise to use precious relief dollars for polling and focus groups,” Schatz said, in a statement to Hawaii News Now.

“Our problems with messaging have to do with departments and key leaders disagreeing with each other and they will not be solved with market research. It is essential that we use cares act money directly to protect public health and to alleviate the financial pain caused by the pandemic.”

The contract is with Anthology Marketing Group, which has been tasked with providing COVID-19 research, messaging, surveys and media consultation, and runs from Aug. 3 to Dec. 28.

The contract says $238,704.97 was for the project and $11,247.78 is for tax….

read … DOH spends 250K in federal relief aid on marketing to help with COVID-19 messaging

UH-Hilo pushes back on student restrictions

HTH: … As the state prepares to reinstate interisland travel restrictions next week to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, administrators at the University of Hawaii at Hilo have pushed back against further restrictions for out-of-state students.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim on Thursday told the Tribune-Herald he urged the university and Gov. David Ige to suspend in-person attendance for all out-of-state students for the entire fall semester. If approved, the request would force students to attend classes online only from their trans-Pacific locations.

However, UH-Hilo Chancellor Bonnie Irwin sent a message to faculty and staff Thursday evening — following a meeting between Irwin, UH-Hilo vice chancellors and Kim — stating that the university is discussing other options.

“(Kim) has been lobbying for this for some time, so far unsuccessful,” the message read. “We informed the mayor that we already have some students on island under quarantine, and there are some programs for which not all classes can be taken online.”…

read … UH-Hilo pushes back on student restrictions

After several delays, Kealoha sentencing discussions resume

HNN: … During a proceeding on Thursday for Minh Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, federal prosecutor Michael Wheat agreed to provide an update to the court by Aug. 20 for a new date to sentence the group.

The proceeding was the result of a motion filed by the pretrial services office that said Nguyen may be a danger to others and the community.

Nguyen had filed a state lawsuit to get 10 firearms back from his ex-girlfriend, also an HPD officer. He had given the guns to her when he was indicted.

(Translation: Nguyen asserts that he ‘controls’ these guns.)

The judge reminded Nguyen that he is still prohibited from owning, possessing, or controlling any firearm or ammunition.

(In other words, the judge does nothing after Nguyen asserts in court that he ‘controls’ thee guns.)

Nguyen remains free pending sentencing as does the other officer found guilty by the jury, Derek Hahn. Louis Kealoha is also free on pretrial conditions.

Only Katherine Kealoha, the ring leader, was detained ahead of sentencing.

read … After several delays, Kealoha sentencing discussions resume

Soft on Crime Activists Thrilled about COVID in Jail

SA: … A distraught (happy and glowing) Kat Brady, coordinator for the nonprofit Community Alliance on Prisons, said she was not surprised by the news that an inmate had tested positive (but wished it hadn’t taken so long). A woman who was taken to the Federal Detention Center, bailed out, and then later tested positive was a state detainee, “so she had to go through OCCC,” Brady said (wistfully).

“I’m really, really, really concerned (thrilled),” Brady said. “They just shipped a whole bunch of people back from Arizona and they didn’t test anybody (or so I say). They shipped people back from a hot spot and put them in quarantine here in an overcrowded prison. I’m like – what the heck are they doing?

(Good point.  Lets leave all the convicts in Arizona!)

read … Happy Happy News

Maui County Voter Turnout 43% so far -- Exceeds 2018 Levels

MN: … Voter turnout for Maui County in this year’s primary election was over 43 percent as of Friday, already surpassing the dismal 36 percent turnout of 2018, according to the County Clerk’s Office.

The new all-mail voting system has drawn 39,126 votes, topping 2018’s primary election total of 34,105 votes. Of that total two years ago, 21,123 were votes cast by mail.

Most of the ballots that were in by Friday came by mail (38,671), while the rest were by in-person voting at voter service centers, which offer electronic voting. A total of 90,301 ballots were sent out to Maui County voters, and Maui County Clerk Kathy Kaohu is hoping to get 45,000 back.

“Maybe we will make it,” Kaohu said Friday afternoon. “I don’t know what made it in the mail today.”

This is the first year that Hawaii is voting entirely by mail.

Of the ballots that have been turned in, about 490 had “no signature” or “mismatched signature” and more than 2,300 return envelope ballot packets have been marked as “undeliverable, return to sender,” by the U.S. Postal Service, Kaohu said….

read  … Voter turnout already exceeds the 2018 primary

1,000 Violators -- Maui Prosecutors focusing on travel quarantine violators

MN: … Guzman said “there is a difference in seriousness level between the general emergency rule violations” for inactivity at beach parks, for example, and the quarantine violations….as deputies review more than 1,000 citations and complaints issued in Maui County for violating public health emergency rules….

For quarantine violations, “no case will be dismissed or settled without my direct authority,” Guzman said.

“We will treat these very seriously because it is a health issue, and we need to make sure we protect the community,” he said. “There will be no dismissals unless circumstances require us to dismiss due to lack of evidence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Most of the quarantine violation cases are being handled in 2nd Circuit Court, Guzman said….

read … Prosecutors focusing on travel quarantine violators

Maui police investigating nonprofit

MN: … Maui police are investigating a Wailuku nonprofit after the Maui County Office on Aging found discrepancies in the organization’s financial documents and suspended its funding.

Na Hoaloha, which had been contracted by the county to provide services to frail elders and people with disabilities, submitted an invoice for more than $18,000 in August 2019 that allegedly contained falsified documents that the current executive director blames on his predecessor….

Na Hoaloha — Maui Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers is a small or with some 378 active volunteers serving 1,042 clients in Maui County, according to a November orientation packet provided to board members. Most of these clients are over 65 years old and live below or near the poverty line.

Na Hoaloha offers programs, such as regular visits and telephone conversations to keep participants company at home, transportation to places like the doctor’s office or grocery store, fall prevention guidance and an in-home respite program that allows family caregivers to hire additional help and get reimbursed care. The in-home respite reimbursement program had been authorized and funded through the Maui County Office on Aging….

Before the nonprofit lost its county contract, it was expecting its largest single grant to come from the Office on Aging — $272,000 from October 2019 to October 2021….

read … Maui police investigating nonprofit

Kauai Bill 2775 -- Styrofoam Ban

TGI: …On Wednesday, the Kaua‘i County Council held a public hearing for Bill 2775, Draft 2, a bill that will restrict the use and sale of polystyrene foam food-service containers.

The council received 60 written testimonies and five virtual testimonies in support of the Styrofoam bill, which was amended to include a ban on the use of all non-compostable containers in 2022.

“The amendment extends the effective start date of the proposed ordinance to 2022,” said Councilmember Mason Chock, who introduced the bill along with Councilmember KipuKai Kuali‘i in February.

“Many restaurants have already discontinued or begun transitioning out the use of polystyrene containers, so the suggestion to phase in the effective dates of 2021 for polystyrene and 2022 for all non-compostable (containers) seems feasible,” said Chock….

read … Public weighs in on polystyrene

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