Hawaii Updates: 3 New Cases; Ige To Extend Quarantine Past June; 'Travel Bubble' For Hawaii, Japan

May 29, 2020

Updated: 5/29/2020, 12:18 p.m.

Where we stand

Hawaii recorded three new coronavirus cases again today, the second day running of that many cases after a spell of zero or single new cases. 

The state health department now reports the number of recorded cases at 649; deaths remain at 17. The case count for Oahu is at 419, Maui County at 118, Hawaii Island at 82 and Kauai at 20. There are 10 cases diagnosed out of state. Some 605 people have been released from isolation.

Ige plans to extend quarantine for trans-Pacific travelers

Gov. David Ige says he will be extending the state’s 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors past June 30th. He also said he will be making a decision soon on when interisland travel can resume without quarantines.

Ige did not give further details during his Facebook Live show yesterday but said he and the county mayors are discussing further steps in reopening the state.

Each county has reopened their businesses and activities in part or in whole.  But there are concerns the mayors want resolved before reopening travel between the islands.

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino says he’d rather be safe than sorry.

"Interisland travel, there’s so many dynamics that we want to make sure that if someone’s coming from another island – that they’re healthy, and they’re not going to spread any germs," Victorino said. "And when they come here, if it’s to Maui County or to any of our islands, that they will not contract any COVID-19, or any other disease, and take it back home. Because that’s really where we’re concerned.

"I want to respect each other’s well being. I’m willing to open up, but with the necessary safeguards. And we’re working on that. Making sure that all these checkpoints at the airport are properly staffed and properly monitored – so that we will prevent spread between the islands."

Victorino said if the state were to mishandle the reopening of travel – it would not only result in more COVID-19 cases, but could close down services.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

'Travel bubble' between Hawaii and Japan could restart tourism, group says

A group of private sector representatives want Hawaii to start a pilot program with Japan to exchange tourists within what’s called a “travel bubble.’

The idea is for two regions that have contained COVID-19 to resume tourism -- but with safety procedures in place.

State senators yesterday heard from Central Pacific Bank executive Paul Yonamine explain the concept, an idea that had been suggested by Ways & Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz.

“There is a tremendous urgency to restart tourism," said Yonamine. "Competing destinations in Asia and Europe are quickly solidifying hygiene protocols and standards and reopening their markets to tourists. Any delay can cause our state to lose market share in global tourism.

"Yet it is incumbent on us to place priority in protecting the health of our residents, workers and also the incoming tourists. Considering these imperatives, a travel bubble, with regions that contain the coronavirus, would be the most attractive way to restart our tourism industry.

"Given the significance of Japanese tourists to Hawaii, and Japan's low COVID-19 infection and death rates,  a travel bubble with Japan, could serve as an effective start and pilot in the gradual reopening of tourism.”

Yonamine suggested forming a public-private task force to work out the details.

A travel bubble could also be applied to other countries with low infection rates, such as Australia and New Zealand.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

Special master: Inmate release at an impasse, court needs to decide

Hawaiʻiʻs efforts to reduce overcrowding in state correctional facilities amid the coronavirus threat are at an impasse.

According to the latest report by Special Master Daniel Foley, there are deep disagreements about how and when the releases should end. 

More than 800 inmates have been let out from Hawai’i’s jails and prisons since the pandemic hit the islands. 

According to prosecutors, 47 have been re-arrested for other offenses. 

The state attorney general and prosecutors say further reductions are no longer needed because the state has the COVID-19 threat under control. 

But the Public Defender’s Office says inmate populations should still be reduced to allow for social distancing and medical isolation.  

"I donʻt know how to say who is right and who is wrong, but we as a Commission feel as long as the proclamations are in place in terms of the governorʻs proclamation," said Mark Patterson chairs the Oversight Commission for Hawai’i’s Correctional Systems.

"We will continue to push for the lowering of the numbers in our facilities until the government comes back to a normal status." 

Last month the Hawai’i Supreme Court ordered all parties to work together to reduce the incarcerated population to the capacities for which the facilities were designed. That would require releasing another 650 inmates. 

Foley says the state Supreme Court may need to settle the issue. 

--HPR's Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

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.