UPDATE 5 p.m.
State officials announced a host of efforts today to ease the blow from coronavirus-related health and financial related pains, including ensuring benefits for low-income residents while state government and non-profit groups work with private lenders to help idled workers across Hawaii’s economy.
The coronavirus pandemic, Gov. David Ige said today, has created a “challenge and burden for everyone across Hawaii.”
A state-wide, mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors and returning residents begins at midnight, Ige reminded the public.
He thanked the “entire community for really taking the message of social distancing at heart.”
The coronavirus pandemic has yet to peak in the islands. But heads of critical state departments today announced a series of efforts intended to keep services flowing, especially to those hardest hit by job losses and cut backs.
>> Deferral of mortgage payments made directly to the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands for six months, starting on April 9.
>> Continuation of programs including child care and adult protective services — “from keiki to kupuna” — including food stamps, child care and processing of new applications from people likely to need a wide array of help as the economic shut down continues.
>> Extension of deadlines until August for graduating high school seniors to apply for University of Hawaii four-year campuses. UH community college students can apply up to the first day of instruction.
In past economic down turns, UH community colleges have seen their enrollments soar as residents go back to school.
“You can’t really beat the opportunity available across the UH system,” UH President David Lassner told reporters on a conference call today.
>> Continuing efforts to find alternate distribution sites, including possibly Aloha Stadium, to take the load off of retailers for in-demand goods such as toilet paper and cleaning products, and especially to allow access for kupuna.
Asked about media reports that Ige had ordered cabinet officials to sideline Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a Hawaii island emergency room physician, from Hawaii’s coronavirus response, Ige said, “I have not made any such orders or directives.”
“My over-riding priority is to protect the health and safety of Hawaii’s people,” Ige said.
He called “everything else” an “unnecessary distraction.”
Green, as Ige’s “health care liaison,” is in charge of the state’s readiness to treat an expected surge in coronavirus cases, Ige said.
Green is responsible for evaluating Hawaii’s supply of equipment to deal with the expected surge in cases, including ventilators and personal protection equipment and finding additional sources, Ige said.
“I welcome the advice and suggestions from Lt. Gov Green,” Ige said.
Ige said that Hawaii’s medical response to the coronavirus pandemic is being led by state Health Director Bruce Anderson and state epidemiologist Sarah Park, who “are all trained epidemiologists.”
UPDATE 3 p.m.
Gov. David Ige and state health officials are holding a press conference at 3 p.m. to discuss the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak in the islands.
Guest speakers are: William Aila, chair, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands; Pankaj Bhanot, director, Department of Human Services; Dr. Bruce Anderson, director, Hawaii State Government Health Department.
Hawaii Department of Health officials said today that the state’s tally of coronavirus cases has risen to 95, up six from Tuesday.
Of all the confirmed cases in Hawaii since the start of the outbreak, five have required hospitalization, Hawaii health officials said.
Today’s tally includes 68 on Oahu residents, 13 in Maui County, five on the Big Island, and five Kauai County residents. Four cases are pending identification of the county of residence, according to health officials.
Of the 95 cases, a total of 15 are non-Hawaii residents: five on Oahu, four on Kauai, three each on Maui and the Big Island.
Meanwhile, there have been 4,658 COVID-19 tests completed, all but 379 from private laboratories.
Quoting the U.S. Surgeon General, Health Director Bruce Anderson said, “treat the situation as though you were affected by COVID-19. Distance yourselves from your friends. Ultimately it’s giong to be how we interact with each other.
On Tuesday, officials announced 90 total cases statewide, but later in the the day acknowledged that the first reported death from the virus in Hawaii was the result of a testing error. The person who died did not have COVID-19 after all.