The Latest: 57 New Cases Statewide; DOH, Honolulu Conduct Vaccine Distribution Training

Dec 15, 2020

The state Department of Health and the City and County of Honolulu yesterday conducted a vaccination distribution exercise to immunize those in the state's Phase 1 priority group. Those in the first group include: essential healthcare workers, long-term care facility residents and staff, and first responders.

Monday's exercise smiulated standing up vaccine clinics to provide the COVID-19 vaccinations.

According to the DOH, Honolulu's exercise is the first of a number of drills planned statewide to prepare to safely and efficiently administer the vaccine.

"The state has been conducting medical countermeasure distribution exercises and vaccination clinics for years, and our training and planning with public and private stakeholders is making a huge difference," said Judy Kern, chief of the DOH's Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness.

"While hospitals and healthcare facilities are focused on vaccinating their workers and may act as community hubs for various phases of the state vaccination plan, the City is working with DOH to ensure we are taking care of our first responders," said Hiro Toiya, director of Honolulu's Department of Emergency Management.

While there is no plan to mandate the vaccine, the DOH is strongly encouraging people, particularly essential healthcare workers, get vaccinated once doses are available.

Where we stand

The state Department of Health reported 57 new cases and no fatalities today.

According to the state's numbers, Oʻahu had 35 new cases, Maui 8, Hawaiʻi County 10, Kauaʻi, Lanai and Molokaʻi had none.

The latest state counts bring the Oʻahu total to 16,458, Hawaiʻi County 1,743, Maui 714, Kauaʻi 134, Lanai 106 and Molokaʻi 22. The number of out-of-state cases totals 303.

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 19,480 cases. The death toll stands at 274.

Honolulu unveils first all-electric bus

The City and County of Honolulu has unveiled a new 40 foot electric bus. It's the first in a battery-powered fleet of 17 electric buses that will begin operation on Oahu over the next year.

In May, the city's Department of Transportation Services won a federal grant for just under six million dollars for three zero-emission buses and on-road charging stations.

The first bus was made by the American manufacturer GILLIG, and cost just under one million dollars. 

Right now, there is only one charger for the bus, but thirteen more are under construction at the Kalihi Transit Center.

Acting DTS director Jon Nouchi is confident that the new electric bus can keep up with its diesel counterparts.

"Exactly a year ago this week, we demo-ed a bus from GILLIG on island, and it was the predecessor to this, and we really sent it all over the island," Nouchi said. 

Nouchi says the bus ran Route 60 of TheBus -- which runs from Ala Moana Center over the Pali to Kaneohe, and to Haleiwa and back.

"This bus, as equipped right now, could probably do seventy to seventy-five percent of the runs we have here in Honolulu," Nouchi said.

For now, the electric bus will operate on routes out of the Kalihi-Palama Bus Facility.

-- HPR's Savannah Harriman-Pote

Community Outreach Court

One key to helping Oʻahu's homeless population get back on their feet is underway in the court system.

Community Outreach Court was created in 2017 to help homeless people escape a cycle of ticketing and arrest. The idea is to clear the court calendar of minor non-violent offenses -- like sleeping in the park -- and connect offenders with social services.

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Tom says the court is designed to be a "one-stop shop" for taking care of legal issues that can be decades old.

"What we're doing is we're trying to clear up any obstacles in the court, that might stop them from moving on," Tom said. "We clear stoppers, we clear fines, we clear bench warrants, we clear penal summons."

"We bring all the services to them, because a lot of times they come in to clear up court cases, but they have also maybe divorce isues that they're dealing with. We want to make sure that if there's a service that they need, we can get them access to it right on the spot -- so they're clearing up any legal issues they might have."

Tom says the aim is to remove any obstacles that may stop clients from getting a job or more social services.

Since it started three years ago, Community Outreach Court has cleared nearly 3,000 cases, with 215 graduates. 

It's a collaboration of the Prosecutor's and Public Defenders' offices, with four locations around Oʻahu.

-- HPR's Noe Tanigawa