Hawaii Coronavirus Cases
As of June 4, Hawaii reported 655 confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Of these, 17 have resulted in death. Honolulu has the majority of cases with 424 reported. Maui was second with 119, and Hawaii County with 81 cases was third.
Hawaii’s Growing Unemployment Rate has Prompted a Rise in Medicaid Applications
As many people employed in Hawaii rely on their employer-sponsored health insurance plans, the coronavirus outbreak has led to thousands of people left unemployed, and soon, without any health insurance.
Unemployment checks are rolling out slowly, leaving many people waiting for weeks to receive their benefits. In many cases, employer-sponsored insurance claims can expire before any unemployment benefits are secured. This means that some residents would be living with no income and possibly no insurance.
It can be stressful to live without any health insurance, especially when one does not have a reliable source of income. Some residents have been trying to get on their family or partner’s health insurance plans in order to avoid this stress, but many have been applying for low-income health coverage under Medicaid or Med-QUEST as it is known in the state.
The unemployment rate in Hawaii has reached a record high during this outbreak, and the rate of uninsured people grew from an average 4.1% to 18.7%. Experts said that the uninsured rate will most likely rise with the unemployment rate. Since march, 21,000 people have applied for Med-QUEST, which is a 40% rise.
Meredith Nichols, the assistant administrator of Med-QUEST in Hawaii, does not expect the volume of applications to increase any more, as many who have lost their jobs have already filed. Nichols also said that she is not worried about this surge, as the number of eligibility workers is high enough to meet the demands.
“The increases are dramatic for us, and certainly nothing we’ve seen before. We’re fortunate to have a robust system in place so with that huge increase in applications, our system has been able to handle it,” said Nichols.
"With the threat of COVID-19, we need to take care of our people and communities first. I am strongly encouraging our guests to postpone their vacations for at least the next 30 days and reschedule it for a later date. This will help us to deal with the virus first, protect the integrity of our destination and enable us to welcome our visitors back to Hawaii soon."
Hawaii State Governor, David Ige
As the Number of Travellers to Hawaii Increase, Unemployment Rates Show No Sign of Decreasing
The amount of travellers to Hawaii has hit a record high since the coronavirus outbreak, but unemployment is still at its highest rate since the stay-at-home orders were put into effect and extended to May 31.
Usually, Hawaii’s rate of unemployment measures around 3%. Since to COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent restrictions that have put a halt on the tourism economy, unemployment in the state has reached a record high of 34%. Some officials, such as Honolulu City Councilmember Kymberly Pine, have warned of the state's overdependence on the tourism industry, which is a major part of Hawaii’s economy.
"It really showed how unprepared our state was for this kind of crisis," said Pine.
"We are going to need to prepare for a lot of people losing their homes, not being able to pay their rentals."
The state normally may see up to 30,000 tourists arriving to enjoy everything Hawaii has to offer. The lowest point of travelling seen in the state was mid-April with only 386 arriving due to the outbreak. Since then, the numbers have more than doubled. On May 9, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported that 857 people arrived in the state. Of those, 255 were visitors and possible tourists and 334 were residents.
Although these numbers are rising, the tourism industry and the people who rely on it for their own income are suffering. Residents are relying on their own savings and help from friends and family to stay afloat, feed their families, and pay their rent or mortgages. Many workers were let go without severance after decades of depending on the tourism industry for their income.
Julie Gadot, a Hawaii resident, used to drive 80 miles each day to work as a housekeeper at the Sheraton Waikiki, a hotel in Honolulu. Now, she is forced to be more careful. She gets help from relatives, local food banks, and makes sure not to waste any food, as her family’s income has been terminated
"Our life is in danger because, of course, we don't know what will happen," said Gadot.
"There's no real hope for good things in the future. We don't know when this will end so we don't know how safe we are. We don't know if the tourists are coming back or not."
Since the beginning of the outbreak, 226,883 unemployment claims have been filed, while only 104,555 claims were processed and paid. The unemployment department is overwhelmed with claims and since has taken on over 530 volunteers to help with processing. Officials hope this will help residents stay afloat while the outbreak continues.
Unemployment claims: 12,327 Prior week: 15,113
Rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people: 45
Statistics provided by Statista
Hawaii is Ranked as Number One for Stricted COVID-19 Rules As Plans For Reopening Begin
As the state has one of the lowest rates of infection of coronavirus in the country, Hawaii has been ranked number one for having the most firm guidelines surrounding health and safety, and plans for reopening are now underway.
The state has successfully flattened the curve of COVID-19 thanks to the protective measures that have been laid out, such as stay-at-home orders, requiring masks in public, quickly restricting bars and restaurants from staying open, and the mandatory 14-day quarantine for people traveling to the state. Due to these results, the state is slowly and carefully relaxing restrictions for residents.
Officials have not yet set a plan for re-opening to visitors, and many residents are glad the state has been so tough in their restrictions. Pua Gora, a Hawaii resident, stated, “We have kupuna and keiki to protect here. I’m glad it’s so strict.”
State Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi expressed concerns for reopening, including certain areas of focus. Tsuneyoshi created a resolution urging inter-island travel to open to residents, screening for people travelling from out of state, and a requirement for visitors to test negative for coronavirus before coming to Hawaii.
“As we know our 14-day quarantine for visitors is not working as we saw the spike last weekend of not only the visitor category but intended resident category, which really needs to be clearly defined,” said Tsuneyoshi.
Governor David Ige also stated that they don’t have as much control of travel as he would like.
“Certainly we are looking at other measures that would be required in order to reopen up and really drop the mandatory quarantine,” said Ige.
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said that the mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors has significantly reduced travel to Hawaii, but agrees that more should be done to protect the safety of residents from tourists who could bring the infection to the state.
“Can we successfully get people tested before coming to Hawaii so we can take on a large number of people? And I’m absolutely confident that we can. I would say that is going to be the latter half of June or the beginning of July if I had to guess,” said Green.
Tsuneyoshi stated that he thinks it may be time to reconsider other methods, besides tourism, to restart the economy, suggesting a focus on sustainable agriculture.