Big Island Coronavirus Updates
ChildcareChildcare Operations Reopened Statewide, Contact-Tracing to be Expanded
Governor David Ige, Lieutenant Governor Josh Green and Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case held a press conference Tuesday to provide updates on various elements of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The following is a list of relevant developments announced:
- The governor amended his 7th Supplemental Emergency Proclamation, issued Tuesday, to allow childcare operations to resume for children of all state residents either working or returning to work. Previously, childcare operations were only available to parents working as essential medical personnel or first responders. Several sectors of the Hawai‘i County economy began reopening Thursday, May 7.
- For the time period of April 1 to May 5, 2020, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations paid out more than $270 million in unemployment benefits, including federal plus-up funding via the CARES Act.
- Gov. Ige said the claims department, newly expanded with scores of state-employed volunteers, is now caught up with the straightforward errors in the claims such misspelled names, incorrect social security numbers or incorrect business listings. The remaining claims in the backlog are more difficult to navigate, the governor said, as they require knowledge of the UI system and the ability to adjudicate errors in the filings. For example, an employer might say an employee was fired for cause and that employee files for unemployment. However, an employee fired for cause is not eligible for traditional UI benefits, Ige said.
- Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said the state will need more contact-tracers to have an adequate tracing program, one of the metrics necessary for a full reopening of the state’s economy. Hawai‘i will use federal funding to do this. Green said that 30 tracers are required per 100,000 citizens, which is the number recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Based on Hawai‘i’s total population, as well as part-time residents, the state will need about 500 contact tracers total. Members of the Nursing School at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa are being enlisted to help in this effort.
- The state has yet to spent any COVID-19 federal relief funding, Ige said. When he issued his initial Emergency Proclamation, the governor made state funds immediately available, as funds through the CARES Act would take more time to mobilize. He said the state has spent “tens of millions of dollars” that will be reimbursed via federal funding.
- Several state parks are now open for limited use, including for beach access and exercise purposes. Social gatherings or lounging in public spaces remain prohibited.
- The mandatory, 14-day travel quarantine for all islands is in effect until at least the end of May. Conversations about extensions, or what conditions need to be for the quarantine to be lifted, are ongoing.
- There have been six or fewer new COVID-19 cases reported daily for more than the last two weeks.
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