The Latest: 150 New Cases; Blangiardi Focused On 'Getting To Tier 3'

Jan 15, 2021

Updated 1/15/21, 12:19 p.m.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi is keeping Oahu in the second tier of its reopening plan, and hopes to safely move the city to Tier 3. This is despite the island averaging 130 new cases (not including inmates), and a positivity rate of 3.9% between January 7 and 13. 

Under the city's current reopening system, the island could snap back to Tier One with a seven-day average of more than 100 cases and a positivity rate over 5%.

Yesterday, 118 new cases were reported on Oahu.

Blangiardi reiterated the surge in new cases was expected due to the holiday gatherings, and there was a downward trend in recent days.

"Our attitude right now is we're in Tier Two. We want to stay in Tier Two," he said. "I'm not interested in going back to a Tier One situation, and hopefully we won't be mandated to do so."

"I am much more focused on getting to Tier Three, and what are the things we can do to get to Tier Three."

Blangiardi acknowledged resident fatigue and confusion with the current tiered reopening, but said he's encouraged that residents are conitinuing to wear a mask and keep their distance. He echoed state health officials that residents should avoid gatherings.

In the meantime, the state and counties are continuing efforts to vaccinate first responders, frontline essential workers, kupuna older than 75 years old. But plans for mass vaccinations are still being finalized on the county level.

Blangiardi says vaccine distribution on Oahu is exciting, but he believes the island will still be dealing with the virus "for a long time to come." 

-- HPR's Casey Harlow

Where we stand

The state Department of Health reported 150 new cases and no new fatalities on Friday.

According to the state's numbers, Oʻahu had 111, Maui 26, Hawaiʻi Island 5, Kauaʻi 1, and Lanai and Molokaʻi had no new cases. 7 residents were diagnosed out of state.

The latest state count brings the Oʻahu total to 19,691, Hawaiʻi County 2,055, Maui 1,400, Kauaʻi 171, Lanai 106, and Molokaʻi 25. The number of out-of-state cases totals 610.

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 24,058 cases. The death toll stands at 318.

Rep. Ed Case re-introduces bills modernizing Jones Act

Congressman Ed Case re-introduced three bills to reform the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (a.k.a. Jones Act). The measures propose amending the act to exempt all noncontiguous U.S. locations, rescinds the Jones Act wherever monopolies or duopolies in noncontiguous shipping develop, and creates a benchmark for shipping rates.

"The bills aim directly at one of the key drivers of our astronomically high cost of living in Hawaii and other similarly located jurisdictions," Case said.

"Because the Jones Act severely limits the supply of shipping to and from our communities, it has allowed a very few companies to control our very lifeline to the outside world and as a result command shipping rates way higher than the rest of the world."

The Jones Act mandates all cargo shipping between U.S. ports occur exclusively on U.S., not foreign, flagged vessels. The law also requires that these vessels are built in the U.S. and owned and crewed by U.S. citizens.

A study from the Grassroots Institute of Hawaii quantified the impact of the Jones Act on the state. It estimated that the annual cost of shipping to Hawaii is between $654 million and $916 million higher.

It also found the act adds more $645 annually in costs to each resident, and has led to 9,100 fewer jobs.

"These long-overdue bills are of the utmost importance to the unique localities which have been left undefended to bear the brunt of the Jones Act," Case said. 

DOH shuts down Oahu restaurant for mask violations

The state Department of Health issued a red placard to immediately close Asia Manoa, due to repeated instances of employees not wearing face masks while working.

The DOH's Food Safety Branch received a complaint alleging the restaurant's employees were not wearing masks on January 9.

An inspection was then conducted on January 11, and revealed a line cook was working without a face mask. Inspectors gave a written warning to Asia Manoa for the violation. The letter noted a follow up inspection would be conducted, and that a repeat violation would result in the closure of the restaurant.

A follow-up inspection was conducted two days later to ensure compliance. A DOH inspector observed a restaurant employee in the front dining area was not wearing a mask. 

A red placard was issued immediately, shutting down Asia Manoa for at least 24 hours. The facility is not allowed to reopen until a follow-up inspection is requested and all employees are verified that they are wearing face masks at all times.