Hawaii Updates: 1 New Case; Double Digit Economic Decline Forecasted; Memorial Day Weekend Caution

May 23, 2020

Updated: 5/23/2020, 12:07 p.m.

Where we stand

Hawaii recorded one new coronavirus case today, continuing the trend in recent days of zero or a few additional cases that is spurring moves to reopen the economy.

The state health department now reports the number of recorded cases at 643; deaths stand at 17. The case count for Oahu is at 414, Maui County at 118, Hawaii Island at 81 and Kauai at 20. There are 10 cases diagnosed out of state. Some 589 people have been released from isolation.

Double digit economic decline projected

Hawaii's economic growth rate will drop by a steep 12.1% this year then edge up by less than a percent in each of the next two years, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism projected in a grim second quarter report yesterday.

Reflecting the depth of the state's economic troubles in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the forecast is built on a number of assumptions.

Among them is that the visitor industry, the sector that employs the most people in the state, will recover extremely slowly: it will take six years for visitor arrivals to regain 2019 levels based on the pace of the turnaround after the Great Recession.

The projections are also based on the premise that tourism will open in September, when the state will see just 30 percent of the arrivals that came in the same month last year. In December, it will see 45 percent of the arrivals reported in that month in 2019.

The news is better, but still concerning, for non-tourism businesses, with the department predicting their recovery will take two years.

Even before the full economic effects of the pandemic hit the state, the department had lowered its projections for economic growth down to 0.5% in its first quarter report from 1.2% at the end of 2019.

After imposing strict stay-at-home and quarantine orders, Hawaii has been largely spared the devastating COVID-19 toll seen in other states. But it has come at a price.

Hawaii's unemployment rate in April hit a non-seasonally adjusted 23.5 percent, ranking it third highest in the nation after Nevada and Michigan.

Yesterday's Hawaii Updates: No New Cases: Lawmakers Recess To June; Isolation Rooms Offered; Interisland Travel Easing Discussed 

In the non-agricultural sector, 121,000 payroll jobs were lost compared to April of last year. The largest decline was in hotels and other accomodations with 64,000 losing employment, followed by 41,000 in food services and drinking places and 9,700 in retail.

Despite the dark outlook, DBEDT Director Mike McCartney gave an upbeat assessment in the department's news release: "While our economy will not recover overnight, Hawai‘i is well positioned because of our strong human will, innovative spirit and physical infrastructure. We are well positioned to go beyond recovery and evolve into a more balanced and diversified economy."

--HPR's News Staff

State says 2 visitors arrested for breaking quarantine

Social media postings led special agents with the state attorney general's office yesterday to arrest two tourists accused of violating the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Artyon Zhiryada, 20, of Happy Valley, Oregon, and Dan Vlasenko, 20, of Vancouver, Washington, were arrested as they were leaving a Waikiki condominium on Lewers Street, according to a Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center news release.

Zhiryada also faces a cruelty to animals charge. The agents said he posted a video online showing him shooting a feral chicken with a spear gun.

The pair arrived in Honolulu last week Saturday and indicated they were staying at a friend's condo, began breaking quarantine requirements and "showed off their escapades by posting their adventures on social media sites as they traveled to various locations around Honolulu," the state said.

Both were booked and charged and have been unable to post bail. Zhiryada's bail is set at $4,500 and Vlasenko's is $4,000.

"Our special agents have arrested 15 quarantine violators in recent weeks and county police departments have arrested additional suspects. Once again, we must warn residents who return, and visitors who come to Hawai‘i, that they will face consequences for violating our COVID-19 emergency rules," said Attorney General Clare Connors.

State urges caution during Memorial Day weekend

Hawaii officials highlighted the antics of a group of teenagers in Maunalua Bay in warning residents and visitors to continue to take precautions against COVID-19 during the holiday weekend.

The state said the teenagers on Thursday tied together boats to make a flotilla, violating social distancing requirements and other rules under Gov. David Ige's emergency proclamations.

"As you remember the sacrifices of our service members and celebrate graduates this weekend, please remember to have fun safely," Ige said in a statement. "Connect with friends and loved ones in ways that protect yourselves, your loved ones and our community."

State rules require a distance of six feet between people and prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people unless they are from the same family. 

Airport arrivals exceed 1,000 for second time this week

The Hawaii Tourism Authority continues to report on rising numbers of arrivals in the islands, with Thursday's count reaching 1,203, the second time this week that the total exceeded a thousand.

Arrivals have been growing despite a mandatory 14-day quarantine for both tourists and returning residents.

Visitors made up 363 of the Thursday total while returning residents numbered 332. Other arrivals included 151 transiting travelers, 140 crew members, 111 saying they intend to relocate to the islands, 75 military, and 31 exempted from quarantine by the state.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Editor's note: We’d like to hear how you’re coping with the latest COVID-19 developments and the state's phased reopening. You can call our talkback line at 808-792-8217. Or e-mail us at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.