Hawaii Updates: Cases Jump As State Plans Lifting of Visitor Quarantine; Police Reform Bill Advances

Jun 25, 2020

Updated: 6/25/2020, 2:12 p.m.

Where we stand

The Hawaii Department of Health reports 16 new cases of COVID-19 today after adjusting it down by one. The increase reflects another jump in cases as the state plans for partial lifting of the visitor quarantine on Aug. 1. Twelve of the new cases are from Oahu and four are from Kaua'i.

Yesterday, also saw 16 new cases but on Tuesday, only three new cases were reported and four were reported Monday. That follows 11 on Sunday, 14 on Saturday, and 27 on Friday.

There is now a total of 850 cases of COVID-19. The number of deaths remains at 17. Of the total cases, 109 have required hospitalization. The count includes Hawaii residents who were hospitalized out of state. Some 696 have been released from isolation.

The case count for Oahu now stands at 595, Maui County at 122, Hawaii County at 86, and Kauai County at 33. There is a total of 14 residents who are diagnosed outside of Hawai’i. 

Health officials say they believe the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases result from Hawaii residents growing lax about adhering to safe practices as the state reopens. They continue to urge that residents wear face masks when out and about, practice social distancing and wash hands frequently.

Police misconduct bill moving forward

Lawmakers agreed to advance a bill that aims to increase transparency about police misconduct in the state.

H.B. 285 C.D. 1 passed out of a Senate-House conference committee yesterday after a day's delay.

The measure would require county police departments to release the names of officers who are suspended or fired in a report to the Legislature and in disclosures to the public.

Unlike for other state and county employees, information about police who are disciplined or dismissed for misconduct is currently protected from disclosure under state Uniform Information Practices Act.

The 2019 bill has gained traction in the midst of a national movement calling for police reform.

The measure is expected go to the House and Senate floor votes next week and, if approved, sent to the governor.

--HPR's Amy Nakamura

Singers, musicians to return to restaurants, bars 

 

Restaurants and bars can again bring singers and musicians who play wind instruments back to indoor and outdoor areas with safety requirements in place.

 

Gov. David Ige approved Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s proposal to allow the music performances but with restrictions that include:

  • Performers who sing or play wind instruments must keep a distance of at least 10 feet from others.
  • They need not wear face coverings, but a physical barrier is required between performers and patrons and staff while indoors. 
  • The 10-foot distance separation does not apply to members of the same group.

Caldwell’s proposal is included in the second amendment to the city Emergency Order No. 2020-16, posted online.  

Restaurant group wants disposable plastic ban delayed

The Hawaii Restaurant Association is asking that the city delay its disposable plastic ban.

Bill 40 will close loopholes in the city’s plastic bag ordinance, and prohibit single-use utensils and Styrofoam containers.

The measure was signed into law in December and the first phase takes effect Jan. 1.

The restaurant association asked a council committee yesterday to defer the effective date by another year.

Victor Lim of the HRA said putting off implementation of the ordinance will help restaurants that are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think this will give our local businesses and our restaurants a chance to stabilize what they're doing," he said. "And also for the customer that's out there in Honolulu, because you know, as business costs increase for us to pass things along, this is just not an environment for our consumer to be able to absorb any additional costs increase."

But Nicole Chatterson of Zero Waste Oahu noted the tougher aspects of the ordinance, like the Styrofoam ban, don’t go into effect until 2022.

She said the first phase closes the plastic bag loopholes and allows single-use utensils by request only.

The city allowed restaurants to resume dine-in service on June 5 but many have closed or delayed opening.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

Young Brothers bill advance in Legislature

The state Public Utilities Commission could quickly allow an interisland carrier into the market -- if there’s an emergency -- under a measure moving in the state Legislature.

The bill addresses growing concerns over barge company Young Brothers LLC, which says it could cut back or cease operations.

The carrier is seeking $25 million in CARES Act funds, citing the financial hit it has taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Senate Transportation Committee approved the measure, which also gives the PUC the option of appointing a receiver to operate a failing cargo carrier.

Committee Chair Lorraine Inouye described the aim of the bill during a meeting yesterday.

“The authority provided in House Bill 2475, Senate Draft 1, will better prepare the state to address emergency situations and provide greater certainty that the needs of Neighbor Islands will be met by an affordable and reliable interisland shipping service,” she said.

The measure next goes to the Senate floor for a second reading and then to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

Electric vehicles won't get free parking at airport, meters after June 30

The state Department of Transportation says free parking for electric vehicles will end on June 30 at state airports and most state and county parking lots and meters. The law that allowed that benefit has been repealed.

Since 2012, electric vehicles have been able to park at airports free of charge but now will be charged parking fees like other vehicles. 

The law also exempted electric vehicles from High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane requirements, allowing the cars to use the lanes even with a single occupant. The transportation department is working to continue the exemption past June 30 since it is supported by the Federal Highway Administration.

The state law applying to electric vehicles can be read here.

Red light camera program moves ahead

A program to catch drivers running red lights is back on the state Legislature’s agenda.

A measure advancing in the Senate would allow counties to set up red light imaging systems on roadways where accidents are common.

The House version of the proposal would launch a three-year pilot program to test the systems, which take pictures of the license plates of violators.

The Senate Transportation Committee amended the bill, including a change that makes a vehicle’s registered owner responsible for any infractions.

In 2002, the Legislature repealed a photo imaging program to catch speeders because of public opposition.

But transportation officials say the red light systems deter those who don’t stop at intersections, endangering other drivers and pedestrians.

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.