U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz joined the COVID-19 Care Conversation to share updates from Washington, D.C.
Schatz said he anticipates negotiations about the next federal COVID-19 relief package to begin in July. While no details are available yet, Schatz shared that he believes something will be passed toward the end of July. He understands that many businesses are not only struggling, but facing possible closure.
“We really gotta think through how to strike the right balance,” he said with regard to maintaining health and safety while providing economic opportunities. “We are not going to get 200,000 jobs back instantaneously, but every job counts,” he said.
Schatz shared that individuals should expect changes to the federal unemployment benefits. While congress is fighting to extend the current July 31 deadline, he said “it’s fair to say that we are not going to end up with the $600 plus-up.”
With regard to reopening travel to out-of-state visitors, Schatz believes there is an opportunity to establish travel agreements with places with a similar low COVID-19 incidence rate. He thinks it’s smart that Hawaii is reopening as safely as possible. While there is concern about the possibility of a spike in cases when travel reopens, Schatz reminded viewers that most of the cases in Hawaii were from local people traveling to the mainland and returning home. He stressed the importance of universal mask wearing, social distancing, and sanitation, saying these precautions are “entirely under our control.”
He commended the Department of Health and Dr. Aimee Malia Grace at the University of Hawaii for their efforts in establishing a contact tracing training program. The program’s goal was to train 300-350 contact tracers by July 15. According to Schatz, the program is set to surpass its goal. “I feel cautiously optimistic that we are going to be in a good spot by mid-July,” he said.
Schatz closed the interview saying “this is going to get worse before it gets better. We need to really hang together and demonstrate that we are not the mainland.” He believes Hawaii can get through this in a way that is the envy of the rest of the country and the world.
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Join the COVID-19 Care Conversation, live every weekday at 10:30 a.m. Yunji de Nies and Ryan Kalei Tsuji will discuss the latest news, resources and community concerns about the coronavirus outbreak in Hawaii.
The COVID-19 Care Conversation, sponsored by Hawai’i Executive Collaborative and Hawaii Pacific Health, airs live every weekday at 10:30 a.m. on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Yunji de Nies and Ryan Kalei Tsuji discuss the latest news, resources and community concerns about the coronavirus outbreak in Hawaii.