Updated: 3/21/20, 7:45 p.m.
Gov. David Ige is pulling up the welcome mat: starting Thursday, any domestic or international visitor who comes to Hawaii will need to self-quarantine in his or her hotel room for 14 days. Returning residents will need to self-quarantine in their homes. The emergency action comes as Hawaii has watched the number of confirmed and presumed positive coronavirus cases expand to almost 50.
The five-day delay in implementing the mandated quarantine is aimed at giving tourists who booked their visits some time to now cancel or cut short their planned stay and to allow the visitor industry to make adjustments, Ige said.
The governor and representatives of the hotel and airline industries said today at a press conference that the mandated quarantine will mean economic hardship for both hotel and lodging operators and their workers but that the safety and health of the community comes first.
Enforcement of the emergency order, which Ige called the first of its kind in the country, will be in the hands of the counties. Violating the quarantine will amount to a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $5,000 and a year in jail.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he hopes the counties won't need to enforce the mandatory order and that visitors will recognize their visits would be spent in their hotel rooms if they don't change their plans.
But he said if the city is informed of anyone who is violating the order, police will take appropriate action.
The quarantine order applies as well to arriving cruise ship passengers. Airline crew members will be exempt from the quarantine, but their tempertures will be taken on their arrival.
The economic impact of the quarantine order on the state's $18 billion tourism industry with its annual 10.5 million visitors will be severe.
Peter Ingram, CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, said the company is already losing millions of dollars, and on some days revenues are zero, with cancelations overtaking bookings.
He said the airlines will be reducing its flight schedule to "barebones," and travel to the Neighbor Islands will also be much more limited. He said there are no plans now for furloughs, but the future is uncertain.
Eric Gill with Unite HERE! Local 5, which represents hotel workers and health care employees, said thousands of members have lost their jobs and they are worried if they can keep their homes and cars.
Gill said their futures are clouded and it's important that Hawaii takes action so people can quickly get back to their lives.
"Let's cap this, move on and get our jobs back," he said.
Ige was asked why he has not taken the addtional step of ordering residents to stay in their homes, as other states and cities have done to curb the spread of COVID-19. The governor said such a move would be extreme and is appropriate when there is wide community spread of the illness. Officials say they have not found that situation in the islands.
All of the state's 48 confirmed or presumed positive cases of the coronavirus have been travel-related, officials said in their latest updated information, although one case remains under investigation. Most of the positive cases involved Hawaii residents returning from out-of-state travel, and a handful have been visitors.
Health officials have also conducted so-called sentinel tests on about 260 specimens sent in from health providers and selected randomly, although skewed to reflect the community's makeup, and all have come up negative.
Second Tripler employee tests positive
A second civilian employee at Tripler Army Medical Center has tested positive for COVID-19, the Army said in a news release this evening.
The latest case and the first one announced on March 18 involved travel to New York before returning to Oahu.
Tripler medical officials were notified Friday that the second employee had tested positive. The worker had symptoms of influenza after returning from the trip and self-isolated. When symptoms persisted, the employee sought testing for the virus.
Tripler is working with the Army Public Health Nursing and the state to track down individuals who may have come into contact with the latest case.
Earlier today, the Army announced a 25th Infantry Division solider has tested positive for COVID-19, the first time a service member has done so in Hawaii.
Where Hawaii stands
The latest count of coronavirus cases in Hawaii now stands at 48, according to the state health department, up from 37 yesterday. Oahu has the most cases with 38 followed by Maui with 5, Kauai with 4 and the Big Island with 1.
Earlier information that two of the cases involved community spread is being revised. Gov. David Ige said one turned out to have been travel related since an individual had a guest in his house who had come from Europe and the second case is still under investigation.
In a related development, a 25th Infantry Division solider has tested positive for COVID-19, the first time a service member has done so in Hawaii, the Army said today.
The soldier is currently in isolation at an off-base residence. The solider had traveled to Las Vegas on March 13 and returned to Oahu on March 15.
The soldier's movements were restricted and on March 18 the solider became ill. Test results later turned up positive for the coronavirus. The Tripler Army Medical Center is tracing any contacts the solider may have had.
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park shutting down
Starting tomorrow, the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is closing down to all park visitors until further notice, officials said in a news release today.
The action was taken in response to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and steps taken by the governor.
Public trails, campgrounds, roads, backcountry and restrooms will be closed to visitors. "The park will offer no services except those that support visitor or resource protection," according to the statement.
The park said it will notify the public when full operations restart. Meanwhile, the public was encouraged to visit the park website, which includes webcams and K-12 curriculum resources for families at home.
Ko Olina closing to the public
Ko Olina announced today it is closing to the general public starting Tuesday. The resort said it is closing the Four Seasons Resort, Disney's Aulani, Ko Olina Golf Club, Ko Olina Marina. Also, resort activities, wedding chapel, lagoon beaches, restrooms and public parking lots are shutting down.
Some parts of the resort will remain open, including the Ko Olina Beach Club, which will remain accessible by owners.
'With the intensifying efforts of the State and City to address the growing effects of the coronavirus pandemic on O‘ahu, it is apparent our resort business will be impacted severely," said Ken Williams, general manager of Ko Olina Community Association and Ko Olina Resort Operators Association in a letter.
He said the resort will monitor the situation and support federal, state and local recommendations.
Screening today in Kaka‘ako, Maui on Monday
Today, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., the City and County of Honolulu is holding a drive-through screening program in Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park, but only for those with flu-like symptoms in certain jobs.
Those eligible must be symptomatic (dry cough, fever, trouble breathing) and returned from travel, work in health professions, skilled nursing facilities, waste management, jails or correctional facilities or work with the homeless or are first responders. Also travel-related employees like bellmen, housekeeping, TSA, flight attendants and rideshare/cab drivers with symptoms could qualify.
Participants must agree to self-quarantine until results are returned, about 3 to 5 days, said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. Those seeking testing should anticipate a wait; about 1,500 people are expected. Enter the park from Ilalo Street at Ward Avenue and Ala Moana.
On Monday, March 23, the Maui County will hold a drive-through testing site at the War Memorial Gym parking lot, 700 Halia Nakoa St. for those with flu-like symptoms. You must make an appointment at (808) 270-7228. Calls will be answered from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting Saturday, March 21.
DOH: Most cases are residents, not visitors
The state Department of Health issued a statement Friday night pointing out that of the 37 confirmed and presumed positive coronavirus cases in Hawaii, 32 involve residents who contracted the illness while traveling.
"I have been informed that there are residents of Hawai‘i who believe the COVID-19 positive cases here are all visitors to the state, and unfortunately, there is stigma developing against visitors in Hawaii," said department spokesperson Janice Okubo. "The majority of cases are residents who returned home after traveling."
Yesterday, a small caravan of vehicles flying Hawaii flags drove down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki showing signs that urged visitors to go home. Okubo said residents, including students who are returning home, should monitor their health for 14 days and stay at home if they become sick, avoiding others.
Gov. David Ige has been urged by state and local leaders to take more aggressive steps in stemming COVID-19, including ordering residents to shelter-in-place and imposing mandatory quarantine on visitors.
Walmart Hiring As Buying Spikes
In response to strong demand amid the coronavirus pandemic, Walmart will increase its workforce by tens of thousands in the United States, filling hundreds of positions in Hawaii.
The Arkansas-based multinational retail company announced plans Friday to offer employees cash bonuses and to hire about 150,000 associates for its stores nationwide, including about 400 positions in Hawaii in the coming months.
The company is looking for employees until the end of May to work in stores, distribution centers and fulfillment centers, Hawaii News Now reported. Positions are temporary, but could convert to permanent roles over time.
The hiring process is usually two weeks, but is expected to be sped up to a 24-hour process for crucial positions such as cashiers and stockers, company officials said.
See yesterday's updates: Cases at 37, 2 Community-Spread; Ige Urged To Take Stricter Steps
“We know millions of Americans who are usually employed at this time are temporarily out of work, and at the same time we’re currently seeing strong demand in our stores,” Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement. “We’re looking for people who see Walmart as a chance to earn some extra money and perform a vital service to their community.”
The announcement comes as people across the country are being laid off because of an economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
For most people, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms. But for the elderly and people with existing conditions, it can cause more severe illness. The vast majority of those who are infected recover.
All U.S. hourly associates in stores, clubs, supply chain and offices on the employee roster as of March 1 should expect to receive a bonus, company officials said. The bonus will be $300 for full-time hourly associates and $150 for part-time hourly associates, combining for more than $365 million, officials said.
Walmart expects to pay out those bonuses on April 2, the Garden Island reported.
The company has also announced plans to accelerate the next scheduled quarterly bonus a month early for store, club and supply chain associates.
According to its website, there are more than 3,800 associates in Hawaii across 12 company locations, including two Sam's Clubs.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.