Gov. David Ige announced today several measures the state is taking to address the COVID-19 situation in Hawaii.
The state will waive a waiting period for jobless claims related to the coronavirus and will be standing up the state’s Emergency Operations Center, Ige said.
He also confirmed the state has a case of community-spread coronavirus in Windward Oahu.
Some Hawaii National Guard members have been activated to support the state’s Emergency Operations Center and serve as liaisons with the state Department of Health.
In addition, Ige asked the community to avoid hoarding goods and to report incidents of price gouging to the state Office of Consumer Protection.
“We need to work together to get through this,” Ige said. He added that the coronavirus will impact families in Hawaii for at least two months.
Following a conference call with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence today, Ige appointed Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara “incident commander” of Hawaii’s coronavirus response, replacing state Health Director Bruce Anderson.
Hara serves as both the director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and state adjutant general.
But Hara emphasized, “The National Guard is not taking over.”
But Guard “planners” are working with their counterparts at the state Health Department and state Department of Transportation for how to respond in advance so the state doesn’t play catch up to the potential community spread of the coronavirus, Hara said.
For now, Hara said, “the entire Guard is on standby.”
Ige issued a supplemental emergency proclamation today that also address initial reports of alleged price gouging among unidentified retailers.
“Don’t hoard because everyone needs these critical supplies,” Hara said. “Let’s please take care of everyone.”
The supplemental proclamation also suspends provisions of the state public meetings law known as the the Sunshine Law, which requires open meetings and hearings. The idea is “to the extent necessary to enable boards to conduct business in person or through remote technology without holding meetings open to the public,” according to the proclamation.
The new limits on public meetings that are being recommended to prevent the spread of the virus “has an impact on how government conducts business,” Ige told reporters today.
The Sunshine Law is designed to provide public access to government decision making. “However, during this health emergency as we are recommending actions to initiate social distancing, some of these provisions are just not workable,” Ige said of the Sunshine Law.
‘We want government to continue to work as much as possible during this time, but the Sunshine Law provisions makes it impossible,” he said. “The proclamation allows administrative hearings and public meetings to be conducted through remote technology and telecommunication tools.”
“All reasonable measures will be taken to ensure public participation that is consistent with the recommendations of social distancing practice as advised by the CDC,” Ige said.
Also at the news conference, Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said the Department of Health posted a list of places on its website where the public can get screened for the coronavirus. However, those wanting a test will need a physician’s order to be screened.
He said a patient seeking a test would be asked if they have a fever, cough, or hard time breathing, as well as if they had been in contact with someone with COVID-19 or if they had been in an area with a known outbreak.
He said places where people can get screened in Hawaii include 27 sites on Oahu, 4 on Kauai, 6 on Maui, and 5 on Hawaii island.
“We will continue to monitor these sites and provide additional resources as the need becomes necessary,” Raethel said.