Gov. David Ige extended the state’s moratorium on rental evictions and approved other measures Thursday aimed at slowing the coronavirus pandemic in Hawaii.
The move comes as health officials reported 236 more cases of COVID-19 and two deaths, bringing the number of fatalities to seven in the past week, including five in the past three days.
Ige’s 12th emergency proclamation extends the interisland and trans-Pacific mandatory 14-day self- quarantines to Sept. 30.
It follows Ige’s announcement Tuesday that the state will wait until Oct. 1 at the earliest to begin a program to allow passengers with approved negative COVID-19 tests taken within 72 hours of their trip to Hawaii to bypass the out-of-state passenger quarantine.
The proclamation also allows the counties to establish resort travel bubbles, a concept that would give participating visitors the right to roam designated hotels or resorts freely for the 14 days of their quarantine. The visitors would be restrained by a geofencing app or device that would alert police if they left the resort.
During a news conference Thursday, Ige offered up the proposal as having potential to make up for the burden imposed on the economically battered hotel industry for the delay of the pre-test travel program, which had been widely viewed as the relaunch of tourism.
But Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami, who appeared at the Zoom news conference to describe his county’s efforts to develop an “enhanced movement quarantine” program, said there’s much more logistical work to be done before the concept becomes reality.
“If we were to phase this, we’re still in research and development,” Kawakami said.
The rental moratorium eviction was extended through Sept. 30. The action prevents any eviction for failure to pay rent. Violators could face a misdemeanor charge with up to $5,000 in fines, up to one year in prison or both.
Ige also announced that a rental subsidy and relief program using federal CARES Act funds was being finalized. Details of the program would be released in the next few days, he said.
Elsewhere, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands extended its COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help qualified Native Hawaiian beneficiaries with rental assistance for a period of up to 12 months. The Hawaiian Homes Commission approved the extension from six to 12 months at its August board meeting.
The 236 new coronavirus cases Thursday raised the statewide total since the start of the pandemic to 5,844.
The state’s latest fatalities — an Oahu man over 60 years old and a Lanai man between the age of 40 and 59 years old — had underlying health conditions, officials said. The Oahu man died Saturday, while the Lanai man was hospitalized on Maui before he died. Officials believe his death is related to travel.
No further details were given.
In other COVID-19 developments:
>> Eight more Oahu Community Correctional Center inmates tested positive, and the initial round of testing at the jail was completed Thursday. All told, 239 inmates and 42 employees tested positive in the state’s largest cluster. The state Department of Public Safety said all inmates will be retested in the coming week.
>> Production of the television show “Temptation Island” on Maui was delayed due to COVID-19 health concerns. “This was a very difficult decision due to the financial impacts to our local union film workers and hotel workers, as well as to the film production company. However, considering the recent surge in cases on our island, all parties agreed to delay show production,” Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said.
>> The state Department of Transportation is reactivating its road message signs on Oahu for COVID-19 messaging. The first message, posted Thursday, asked drivers to “act with care to protect our ohana from COVID-19.” Additionally, the department is asking motorists to slow down.
“What we’re seeing now is an increase in speeding and aggressive driving. As a result, vehicle fatalities are tracking higher than last year,” Deputy Director for Highways Ed Sniffen said in a news release. “With fewer vehicles on the road right now due to COVID this shouldn’t be the case. We urge everyone to watch your speed and be aware of other road users.”