NEWS | Council District 7 – Honolulu City Council |

(KITV) Tens of thousands of passengers flying to Hawai’i daily

This comes after the state launched it’s pre-travel testing program last month, allowing travelers to bypass the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine, so long as they present a negative COVID-19 test within 72-hours of their departure to the Aloha State

(SOURCE: KITV)

The number of people traveling to the state every day is now in the tens of thousands.

This comes after the state launched it’s pre-travel testing program last month, allowing travelers to bypass the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine, so long as they present a negative COVID-19 test within 72-hours of their departure to the Aloha State.

More than 10,000 people traveled to the state on Monday. According to the Hawai’i Tourism Authority (HTA), over 5,200 people are here for vacation, and more than 2,000 are visiting family or friends.

On Sunday, HTA says 10,768 people flew into the islands, more than 6,000 traveled here for vacation. The number of passengers flying to Hawai’i on Saturday was almost 13,000

Before the pandemic, the state saw almost 30,000 people daily.

(KITV) Clinical Labs of Hawaii processes up to 2,200 COVID-19 tests daily

(SOURCE: KITV)

There are several labs across the state that are involved in testing for coronavirus. Clinical Labs of Hawaii is one of those facilities. The facility has 115 employees at its Aiea Heights location and it processes almost 10,000 tests per day. 15 of their technologists are specifically assigned to handle COVID-19 tests and it’s a 24/7 operation. Angelika Marchello says the additional work with COVID-19 testing was unprecedented for her operation.

“The community demand and needs were there. We needed to provide those testing results. We started seeing an increase immediately,” Marchello said.

Here’s how it works. When a person is swabbed at a clinic or healthcare center, a courier picks it up and delivers it to the lab. From there, employees verify information on the vials to match it to the right patient. Then things get technical involving an array of specialize equipment and procedures. 

“From there it will get processed and prepared for the instrument, and then once it’s ready, it will be put on the testing platform to be tested,” Marchello said.

Each test takes around three hours to process. Marchello says a common reason for a delayed result everyday occurs when the name of patient doesn’t match the name or birthday on the vial.

“The sample has to be labeled accurately. It has to match what’s on the requisition. If it doesn’t, we have to stop processing altogether, we have to verify the patient identification is correct before we can continue,” Marchello said. 

Other factors that slow-down processing include staffing shortages, equipment  maintenance and transportation time from the collection site to the lab. 

Besides coronavirus tests, the lab processes around 7,500 samples for other infectious diseases and blood disorders such as E.coli, salmonella and leukemia. 

“People are sick 24/7, they don’t take a day off so we’re here 24/7. We operate all shifts, all hours. We need to get those results out to the physician as soon as possible,” Marchello said.

Marchello says the lab hopes to expand COVID-19 test processing from around 5,000 now, up to 10,000 samples per day by the end of the year.

(Hawaii News Now) After 8 months, the Magic Island parking lot is back open

(SOURCE: HAWAII NEWS NOW)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – The Magic Island parking lot reopened Tuesday after an 8-month-long closure for renovations.

The city says 470-stall parking lot was repaved and re-striped. New gates and benches were also installed, along with a drop off zone.  

“With the tumultuous nature of this year, it will be nice to get back to some level of normalcy by reopening roughly half of the parking spots at our most popular park,” said Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation Director Michele Nekota.

“We appreciate the patience of the park users while these parking spots received a much-needed makeover. There is still some work to be done, so we appreciate your understanding as the project continues.”

Crews also planted more trees and replaced unhealthy ones at Magic Island.  

Some of the ongoing work that still needs to be done focuses on landscaping maintenance and restoration.

The city added that a $1.96 million shoreline improvement project is underway along the Hawaiian Pond near the Atkinson Drive entrance.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

(KITV) LATEST: DOH reports 61 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

(SOURCE: KITV)

The Hawaii Department of Health reports 61 new COVID-19 cases in Hawaii on Tuesday, bringing the cumulative total cases to 17,393 statewide.

In the past 14-days, there have been 1,313 positive cases statewide.

Below is a case count each island has reported since the beginning of the pandemic:

  • Hawai’i: 1,557
  • Kaua’i: 101
  • Lana’i: 106
  • Maui: 499
  • Moloka’i: 17
  • O’ahu: 14,918

Hawaii’s coronavirus-related death toll stands at 233.

(KITV) A major change to the state’s pre-travel testing program coming Tuesday

(SOURCE: KITV)

HONOLULU – Starting on Tuesday, you must have a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding the plane to bypass the 14-day quarantine.

If you get the result after you land, you must quarantine the entire 14 days or the length of your stay, whichever is shorter.

READ MORE: Mayor Caldwell wants travelers to be tested four days after arriving to O’ahu

“Currently 94% of travelers participating in the pre-travel testing program for Hawai’i arrive here with tests in hand, but at least 44 travelers who took the pre-travel test before departure got a positive result upon arrival a day or two later, it isn’t a large number but its enough to change the policy,” said Ige.

The policy change does not apply to inter-island travel.

Kaua’i County Mayor Derek Kawakami tells KITV 4 he’s very happy with the governor’s decision to require travelers to have a negative COVID-19 test result in-hand prior to departure.  

Kawakami says, if there is a spike in cases on Kaua’i he will ask for more travel restrictions like a mandatory 3-day quarantine and post-arrival test, paid for by the traveler.

“You go anywhere else in the world you gotta pay to go to the parks we give it away for free in this case in the middle of a pandemic, if travelers want to come to Kaua’i under the circumstances yes they can capitalize on the lower airfares, yes they may be able to get a good deal at the hotels but we’re going to require a second test and you’re going to pay for it.”

READ MORE: Pre-travel testing set up for Canadians wanting to bypass state’s 14-day quarantine

Kawakami called the governor’s policy change a step in the right direction.

He also told KITV4 he doesn’t anticipate withdrawing from the state’s pre-travel testing program, as long as case numbers don’t spike and hospitals aren’t exceeding capacity.

(Hawaii News Now) Aloha Stadium is being transformed into a socially distant holiday wonderland

(SOURCE: HAWAIINEWSNOW)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – A drive-thru winter wonderland is underway at Aloha Stadium.

With Honolulu City Lights and other community holiday events canceled or altered because of COVID, Michael Gangloff, founder of Show Aloha Challenge, put together the Aloha Show Land.

It’s a half-hour drive through a Christmas landscape and no contact means no COVID fears.

Gangloff said everything is built from scratch with about seven miles of steel and over a million LED lights.

“We literally built these arches and we bent them ourselves,” said Gangloff. “We did everything in house.”

Hawaii News Now got a sneak peek of the show as it’s not ready yet.

What would take eight months to put together is getting done in just a month by Gangloff and his team.

Now it’s just a race against the clock.

“They’re so phenomenal, my team works all the way through Saturdays and Sundays,” said Gangloff. “Working 80 hours a week to accomplish this and hardly at any money if not volunteering their time.”

All proceeds from the winter wonderland will be going to charity.

“We are going to start in January 2021 it’s called the ‘Aging in Place’ program,” said Gangloff. “This is where we go into seniors’ homes and we install grab bars, hand rails all at low cost and we retrofit their home so seniors can age in place.”

If tickets sell out Gangloff, said the stadium is allowing him to extend his show even longer.

“The moment we get close to selling out I’m going to open another week or two and keep opening up for as long as I can even though if it into the month of January and fill that need for people wanting to get out.”

The Aloha Show Land will be open to the public on November 27th, but you can reserve a ticket online.

It’s $50 per vehicle.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

(Hawaii News Now) Under latest emergency proclamation, no rental evictions until at least 2021

(SOURCE: HAWAII NEWS NOW)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – For months now, landlords across Hawaii have been unable to evict tenants who are late on rent under the state’s eviction moratorium.

Gov. Ige’s 15th and latest COVID-19 emergency proclamation extends that moratorium, banning evictions until at least Dec. 31.

While the moratorium is intended to help tenants who have lost income due to the pandemic, its causing a burden on property owners who are trying to keep up with the bills.

[Read a previous report: As pandemic drags on and missed rent payments pile up, landlords scramble for options]

The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii provides legal assistance to both tenants and landlords to navigate the options to move forward.

Legal experts say the rules are tilted in the favor of tenants to ensure Hawaii residents aren’t forced into homelessness.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Mayor Caldwell provides an update on the city’s free COVID-19 testing program

(SOURCE: KITV)

“There’s parts of our country where you can’t find a test, let alone have it free. In this case it is free, just show up. You don’t need a doctor’s slip to get a test, just get tested,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

A reminder from Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Monday that free surge testing across the island runs for another ten days.

This second round of testing started with 28,000 tests on-hand back on October 15th since the Mayor says nearly 12,000 tests have been administered.

“We have ten more days folks, ten more days, to use up these 16,000 or so surge tests, use them up, we can do it. It require you stepping forward and getting tested. Particularly as we head into the holiday season. All you need is a state ID, drivers license or passport if you have one, you can register at www.doineedacovidtest.com,” Mayor Caldwell said.

Last week Mayor Caldwell said he hoped to ease restrictions and advance the city’s strategic recovery plan into Tier 4 but the numbers remain too high.

Mayor Caldwell still believes it can be done by Christmas.

“It really depends on what we do and how we act. What we do and how we act is going to have a serious impact on how we enter the holidays and how we close out this year,” Mayor Caldwell said.

And as the number of visitors continues to rise, Mayor Caldwell says he agrees with Kaua’i County Mayor Derek Kawakami that they want all passengers to have a negative test-result before boarding a plane.

(Hawaii News Now) 2nd coronavirus vaccine shows overwhelming success in U.S. tests

(SOURCE: HAWAII NEWS NOW)

(AP) – Moderna said Monday its COVID-19 vaccine is proving highly effective in a major trial, a second ray of hope in the global race for a shot to tame a resurgent virus that is now killing more than 8,000 people a day worldwide.

The company said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from Moderna’s ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own vaccine appeared similarly effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.

The results are “truly striking,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert. Earlier this year, Fauci said he would be happy with a COVID-19 vaccine that was 60% effective.

A vaccine can’t come fast enough, as virus cases topped 11 million in the U.S. over the weekend — 1 million of them recorded in just the past week — and governors and mayors are ratcheting up restrictions ahead of Thanksgiving. The pandemic has killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide, over 245,000 of them in the U.S.

Stocks rallied on Wall Street and elsewhere around the world on rising hopes that the global economy could start returning to normal in the coming months. Moderna was up 7.5% in the morning, while companies that have benefited from the stay-at-home economy were down, including Zoom, Peloton and Netflix.

Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, welcomed the “really important milestone” but said having similar results from two different companies is what’s most reassuring.

“That should give us all hope that actually a vaccine is going to be able to stop this pandemic and hopefully get us back to our lives,” Hoge told The Associated Press. He added: “It won’t be Moderna alone that solves this problem. It’s going to require many vaccines” to meet the global demand.

The National Institutes of Health helped create the vaccine Moderna is manufacturing, and NIH’s director, Dr. Francis Collins, said the exciting news from two companies “gives us a lot of confidence that we’re on the path towards having effective vaccines.”

But “we’re also at this really dark time,” he warned, saying people can’t let down their guard during the months it will take for doses of any vaccines cleared by the Food and Drug Administration to start reaching a large share of the population.

Scientists not involved with the testing were encouraged by the early findings but cautioned that the FDA still must scrutinize the safety data and decide whether to allow vaccinations outside of a research study.

“We’re not to the finish line yet,” said Dr. James Cutrell, an infectious disease expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “If there’s an impression or perception that there’s just a rubber stamp, or due diligence wasn’t done to look at the data, that could weaken public confidence.”

If the FDA allows emergency use of Moderna’s or Pfizer’s candidate, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year.

Both vaccines require people to get two shots, several weeks apart. U.S. officials said they hope to have about 20 million Moderna doses and another 20 million doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech to use in late December.

Exactly who is first in line is yet to be decided. But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the hope is that enough doses are available by the end of January to vaccinate adults over 65, who are at the highest risk from the coronavirus, and health care workers. Fauci said it may take until spring or summer for enough for anyone who is not high risk and wants a shot to get one.

States are gearing up for what is expected to be the biggest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. First the shots have to arrive where they’re needed, and Pfizer’s must be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — around minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Moderna’s vaccine also starts off frozen, but the company said Monday it can be thawed and kept in a regular refrigerator for 30 days, easing that concern.

Another important message: Additional vaccines that work in different ways are still in testing — and despite the promising news about Moderna’s and Pfizer’s shots, more volunteers are needed for those studies.

Moderna’s vaccine is being studied in 30,000 volunteers who received either the real thing or a dummy shot. On Sunday, an independent monitoring board examined 95 infections that were recorded after volunteers’ second shot — and only five of the illnesses occurred among people given the real vaccine.

The study is continuing, and Moderna acknowledged the protection rate might change as more COVID-19 infections are detected. Also, it’s too soon to know how long protection lasts. Both cautions apply to Pfizer’s vaccine as well.

But Moderna’s independent monitors reported some additional, promising tidbits: All 11 severe COVID-19 cases were among placebo recipients, and there were no significant safety concerns. The main side effects were fatigue, muscle aches and injection-site pain after the second dose.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts, company’s vaccine is among 11 candidates in late-stage testing around the world, four of them in huge studies in the U.S.

Both Moderna’s shots and the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate are so-called mRNA vaccines, a brand-new technology. They aren’t made with the coronavirus itself, meaning there’s no chance anyone could catch it from the shots. Instead, the vaccine contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tweeted that that he was thrilled at Moderna’s news, saying, “Our companies share a common goal — defeating this dreaded disease.”

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

(Hawaii News Now) State slowly makes progress on jobless claims, but many still not getting answers

(SOURCE: HAWAII NEWS NOW)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – Since the pandemic started eight months ago, unemployment has been one of the most pressing issues facing Hawaii residents. Many of them need financial assistance and at the very least, they need answers about why they are not receiving unemployment benefits.

The state has paid out nearly $4 billion in unemployment benefits this year, and the most recent numbers out Thursday show a greater week-to-week improvement in new weekly initial unemployment claims. This week it was down to 4,277 from 4,700 — a drop of more than 400.

Still, there are major issues.

Despite the new call center, people with relatively minor problems that are holding up their claims can’t get through.

The state’s contracted new call center, through a mainland company called Maxims, reports 200 dedicated customer service representatives are handling incoming inquiries and another 100 staff are assigned to adjudicating claims. They report receiving around 5,000 calls a day and resolving close to 10,000 claimant issues each week.

Single mother Amanda Alvarado hasn’t been one of the call center’s success stories. She claims she had a minor job separation issue that she needed to appeal and resolve.

After countless calls and emails, she was able to get a customer service representative to tell her an examiner would call her back in two weeks, but that time has passed and she says hasn’t been able to work or receive benefits since March.

“It’s incredibly frustrating because they’re bringing on all these people and it seems like what they’re saying is that the people who are answering the phone calls are (being paid) to tell us to wait and that doesn’t seem like the best allocation of funds, especially when the deadline’s coming up for all of the funding that was provided,” said Alvarado, who is referring to the remaining CARES act funding that the state has yet to spend.

That figure is more than $867 million, according the the Hawaii Data Collaborative.

State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, who sits on the coronavirus legislative committee, says that any unused funds leftover at the end of the December are going to get transferred automatically to the unemployment trust fund.

Dela Cruz says he know the situation is unacceptable and that the state shouldn’t be this far behind, eight months into the pandemic.

“That’s not just a case with Unemployment Insurance, but also the case with rental assistance,” Dela Cruz said. “We’re doing our best as part of the committee and on behalf of the Senate and the public to try to follow up with the departments, making sure that they’re on task, trying to offer any assistance that we can provide.

“The governor is currently working on his budget and within a month, we’ll see what kind of resources are going to be needed so that the departments can be as efficient and effective as possible.”

As always, Hawaii News Now has invited the DLIR to have someone available to interview during our weekly coverage and they said no one was available this week.

A DLIR spokesperson referred us to a statement from Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio which reads in part:

“We too are frustrated as the DLIR strives to comply with the requirements and constraints that are mandated during this unprecedented time in Hawaii’s history so that it can process your claims. I truly understand your frustrations when changes are made to your claims to comply with these requirements and how it is upsetting to you when you need us the most.”

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.