Gov. David Ige on Monday afternoon lauded Hawaii for continuing to “flatten the curve” but warned that social distancing must continue to stay on track so that the state can slowly reopen its economy.
On Monday, Hawaii’s tally of coronavirus cases rose by two from Sunday to 634, according to the state Department of Health.
Those two new cases — one adult and one minor — are Oahu residents and travel-related, according to health officials.
“With only two new COVID-19-positive cases, we are on the right track to get this disease under control in Hawaii,” Ige said. “This is the fifth day since the safer-at-home order went into effect, which allowed several businesses and activities to resume operating. This includes the opening of retailers and shopping centers in Maui County starting today.”
However, Ige said it does not mean that people should feel free to congregate, gather in large groups and ignore social distancing mandates. Unfortunately, Ige said, the administration has heard reports of group gatherings and people loitering on the beaches and not wearing masks in public.
“I know that this has been difficult,” Ige said. “People want to get out of their homes and socialize, but if we stop following the social distancing guidelines, we will lose all of the progress we have achieved today and all of your sacrifices will be meaningless. So please continue to follow the mandates. Your family, neighbors and friends are counting on you.”
The safer-at-home order, Ige’s seventh supplementary proclamation for the COVID-19 emergency, continues to mandate that all persons traveling to the state as well as interisland travelers undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported that on Sunday, 854 passengers arrived by air to Hawaii, including 334 residents, 246 visitors and 80 intended residents.
Ige said Monday during the Honolulu Star-Adver- tiser’s COVID-19 Care Conversation on Facebook live that he was considering photographing incoming nonresidents at Hawaii airports in an effort to improve screening of travelers.
The state likely would use federal coronavirus relief funds to pay for that as well as other airport screening improvements to better track whether visitors are complying with the mandatory 14-day quarantine order, he said. A total of $20 million has been allocated to the state Department of Transportation.
Visitors are supposed to register where they are staying on a state website, and are required to provide their names and identification, but no photos are available to help track travelers violating the quarantine order.
Of the 634 confirmed coronavirus cases reported in the state Monday, 410 were on Oahu, 117 in Maui County, 75 on Hawaii island and 21 in Kauai County, according to health officials. Since the start of the outbreak, 81 have required hospitalization, and 561, or more than 88%, have been “released from isolation.”
There were no new hospitalizations or individuals released from isolation Monday.
For four consecutive days, Hawaii has reported fewer than three new cases each, and no new cases were reported Friday.
Ige also noted that Monday was the first day of the state Legislature reopening, and that he is working with legislators and the counties on the best use of federal coronavirus relief funds, as represented by Senate Bill 75.
Ige was joined at his news conference by William Aila Jr., Department of Hawaiian Home Lands chairman, and Norm Baker, interim Aloha United Way president, to announce a new rent relief program for Native Hawaiians.
The program, approved by the Hawaiian Homes Commission at its April meeting, provides eligible beneficiaries with rental assistance both off and on homelands using $7 million in Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant funds.
“We started by implementing mortgage relief programs for existing homesteaders, and now we are pleased to launch this initiative with AUW to help applicants on our waiting list,” Aila said.
Eligible Native Hawaiians on DHHL’s applicant waiting list must provide documentation of a loss of in- come or job as a result of COVID-19, along with other qualifications. If qualified, applicants could receive assistance for the payment of their security deposit and rent for up to six months.
Ige said he was in discussion with county mayors on whether to extend the stay-at-home order beyond May 31, as well as whether to relax restrictions for the next level of businesses after the end of the month. Ige also said during the COVID-19 Care Conversation that he expects to lift the interisland quarantine possibly in the next two to six weeks, depending on how the infection rate progresses.
He urged residents to continue to wear face masks in public and to maintain social distancing.
“I just want to remind everyone that this is a marathon, not a sprint,” Ige said. “We will be continuing to live with infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and we need to be vigilant.”