Officials Talk Travel, Rent, Federal Aid Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Several state officials spoke at a press conference Wednesday regarding the state’s moves in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s some of what they had to say.
Health Updates, Wednesday Sees Highest Number of Infections to Date
- The Department of Health completed its review of medical information from the first patient believed to have died due to coronavirus infection. DOH Director Bruce Anderson said circumstances surrounding the death were consistent with and likely caused by coronavirus.
- The victim, an elderly male resident of O‘ahu, had recently traveled to Las Vegas, where COVID-19 is widespread. Anderson said the department believes he contracted the virus there.
- Officials confirmed 34 new cases of coronavirus across the state Wednesday, the largest one-day increase in Hawai‘i since the outbreak began. Only one was a minor. There were 26 residents among confirmed cases, one visitor and seven pending. The total number of cases in the state as of noon Wednesday was 258. Of those, 194 are residents and 20 are visitors.
- So far, 69 people have recovered, including 11 on Tuesday. A total of 15 patients have required hospitalization statewide, with two being admitted in the previous 24 hours. There has been only one death.
- Anderson credited Hawai‘i’s healthcare system with keeping mortality rates related to the virus low. However, as the state’s population trends older, officials are bracing for the inevitability of more fatalities to come.
- As of 7 p.m. HST Wednesday, more than 210,000 Americans had been infected with COVID-19. More than 4,700 had died.
- The state erected a new facility on O‘ahu Wednesday to serve as a quarantine and isolation facility for the homeless found to be positive for the virus or awaiting results. It is not a homeless shelter, Anderson said.
Quarantine in Effect, Travel Numbers Continue to Shrink
- Tim Sakahara, a spokesperson for the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation, said air travel to the state is down 98.5% over last year at the same time, with only 906 people arriving in the state by air on Tuesday.
- Gov. David Ige’s 14-day, mandatory self-quarantine for inter-island travelers went into effect Wednesday and will last the entire month. Sakahara said travelers were compliant and processes at airports were orderly. That was aided in large part due to how few people were actually traveling.
- Essential workers exempt from the inter-island traveler quarantine that went into effect Wednesday don’t need to wear masks on planes, Sakahara said. They do have to quarantine themselves when on other islands except when performing essential functions. They will not have to quarantine upon return to their home island. Those with questions about exemptions should email [email protected].
- People traveling for medical appointments should wear a mask if possible, making one if they don’t have one. However, they won’t be denied access to air travel if they don’t have a mask.
- Gov. David Ige said the state is looking at “implementing an aggressive work-at-home program” for state workers currently assigned to unemployment.
- Hawai‘i does not have a statewide text alert system but is considering one at the behest of the State Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 tasked with helping manage and find solutions to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rent and Small Business Assistance
- Tenants need not worry about being removed from their homes for a lack of rent payment until April 30 at the earliest, Stephen Levins, director of the State Office of Consumer Protection, said Wednesday.
- Other protections for renters exist, as well as resources through Consumer Protection. They can be accessed by checking out this article on Big Island Now.
- Consumer Protection has already identified attempted scams as Americans wait for stimulus checks. Some residents have reported receiving emails from individuals posing as government officials and demanding financial information, threatening those residents that their checks will be withheld if they don’t share information like bank account numbers or online payment service account numbers. “No one should provide any info to anyone who’s contacting you via the internet or over the phone,” Levins said.
- Jane Sawyer, district director of the US Small Business Association, also talked about a number of financial options for Hawai‘i entities struggling in the wake of coronavirus, including disaster loans.
- Eligible for stimulus funds are companies with fewer than 500 employees, sole proprietors, independent contractors, the self-employed, nonprofits and others. Some businesses will be able to apply for loans beginning Friday, April 3. The rest will be eligible beginning April 10. For more information and direct links to applications, check out this article on Big Island Now.