Military arrivals subject to separate restrictions

HONOLULU (AP) — Members of the U.S. military arriving in Hawaii will not be subjected to the state’s quarantine rule resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, but service members will follow a separate order restricting their movements.

The Department of Homeland Security exempted military members from the state’s quarantine guidelines for arriving travelers, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

But the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, which oversees operations in the state, said its own “restriction of movement” guidelines prohibit service members from going out for 14 days except for travel to places considered essential such as grocery stores, doctors or pharmacies.

Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, incident commander for the state’s coronavirus response, said military members coming to Hawaii on official business were already considered to be on “essential travel for critical infrastructure.”

DHS has asked the state to extend a quarantine exemption to military family members moving to Hawaii, officials said.

The military order is less restrictive than the requirements for arriving civilian residents and tourists, who are required to stay in a dwelling for 14 days and not go outside.

Tourism chief to retire as virus fallout continues

HONOLULU (AP) — The head of Hawaii’s tourism agency announced he plans to retire as the industry continues to experience the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic that has significantly reduced travel to the state.

Hawaii Tourism Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Tatum informed staff and the organization’s board Wednesday that he plans to retire Aug. 31.

Tatum has worked in the hospitality industry for 40 years. He took over the authority in December 2018 after a 37-year career with Marriott International Inc.

“I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished,” Tatum said. “I’m very proud of the HTA team and our refocused plans to develop a balance strategy for tourism. Now, I’d like to get us through the quarantine and help with the recovery piece and long road back.”

Tatum’s replacement has not been announced.

Guidelines create incomplete Hawaii virus data, critics say

HONOLULU (AP) — Coronavirus information from Hawaii health officials presents an incomplete story of the pandemic’s impact on racial and ethnic communities in the state, some critics said.

The state Department of Health continues to gather data on the pandemic’s impact on residents, Hawaii Public Radio reported Monday.

State health authorities collect data on race and ethnicity using federal forms provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which some say highlight deficiencies in identifying cultural backgrounds.

Health officials continue to deal with a flood of information about COVID-19, but face a challenge “making sure the data is complete and clean,” state Epidemiologist Sarah Park said.

Officials are attempting to divide the categories of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders into more specific designations, Park said.

Until recently, health authorities did not have time to take a second pass at data to make more focused breakdowns such as whether people in the two larger categories were of Filipino, Korean, Japanese or Chinese descent.

“In the heat of the outbreak, the reality is that oftentimes our investigators are just going to collect what they need because the focus is contact tracing, trying to identify people who may have been exposed and making sure they’re in quarantine,” Park said. “And so things like race sort of are not prioritized.”

Sheri Daniels, executive director of Papa Ola Lokahi, said the pandemic highlights data collection and “the picture that data presents.”

Daniels, whose organization works to improve Native Hawaiian health, has partnered with other Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community leaders to push for data with more details, including racial and ethnic information.

A lack of uniform reporting practices at the county, state and federal levels adds to the delay in seeing a full picture of community health, she said.

“Whether it’s a Pacific Island perspective or a Native Hawaiian, we really need to know the underlying data so that we can understand what effective strategies that we can apply, support and advance in our communities,” Daniels said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness. The vast majority of people recover.

Hawaii Police Commission members resign from oversight panel

HONOLULU — Two members of the Honolulu Police Commission have resigned after voicing frustration at the limited power the commission has to oversee the police department and its chief.

Former federal prosecutor Loretta Sheehan and retired Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Steven Levinson stepped down from the seven-member, volunteer commission, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

The commission has been unwilling to use “its bully pulpit to do investigations and shed light on problems that it believes are taking place within the department,” Levinson said.

“For a so-called civilian oversight body, the commission has very little oversight power with teeth,” Levinson said.

Sheehan and Levinson were instrumental in the selection of Susan Ballard as the city’s police chief in October 2017.

“At the heart of it, the current commission is very focused on supporting the chief of police,” Sheehan said. “That is not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. It’s just that you don’t need me for that.”

Both the commissioners said that despite some disagreements with Ballard, they think she is doing a good job.

Ballard has implemented an officer body camera program, developed homeless outreach and navigation centers, rebuilt the crime lab, and restored department morale, Sheehan said.

“There’s always improvements to be made and progress to be sought, but she’s done a lot in her short tenure,” Sheehan said. “Absolutely, over the years, Sue and I have had our disagreements, but any disagreements shouldn’t detract from her accomplishments, not one bit.”

Military continues to boost economy during virus

HONOLULU (AP) — U.S. military spending continues to be a pillar of Hawaii’s economy as the Department of Defense has so far proved resistant to the financial impact of the coronavirus.

The financial damaged suffered by the state because of the significant decrease in tourism has been offset by uninterrupted employment at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and continued military contracts, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported last week.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has resulted in a state jobless rate of 22 percent, while the shipyard continues to employ 5,800 civilian workers, making it the state’s largest industrial employer that adds about $1 billion to Hawaii’s economy.

The University of Hawaii was recently awarded a four-year contract valued at up to $75 million to continue operating the Air Force’s Maui High Performance Computing Center.

Hensel Phelps Construction in Honolulu was awarded a $54 million contract in April for the design and construction of a Navy SEALS training facility at Pearl City Peninsula.

Hawaii also has about 42,000 active duty military personnel, nearly 10,000 Guard and Reserve members, 20,000 civilian defense workers, 60,000 dependents, 18,000 retirees, and 111,000 veterans.

Hawaii had 5,300 non-defense federal employees as of late 2017, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management said.

Hawaii has received more than $7 billion in federal assistance for COVID-19 response.

Prior to the health emergency, Hawaii received the nation’s second-highest infusion of defense spending as a percentage of state gross domestic product at 7.7 percent for fiscal year 2018, the Office of Economic Adjustment said. Virginia was higher at 10.3 percent.

“Federal spending, more than just military, is a stabilizing force now,” said Carl Bonham, executive director of the Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii.

Hotel union protest calls for worker protections to reopen visitor industry

HONOLULU (AP) — The union representing workers at many of Hawaii’s hotels held a demonstration demanding that public safety and the needs of Hawaii’s workers are placed at the forefront of plans to reopen the state’s tourism industry.

Unite Here Local 5 union members took part in a caravan of about 100 carloads of people in Waikiki on Wednesday, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

About 9,500 of the 12,000 hospitality, health care and food service workers represented by Local 5 have become unemployed since the state’s tourism industry collapsed following restrictions placed on travel and business to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The protesting hotel workers said they do not want the state to fail to protect the public from a second potential wave of coronavirus cases in a rush to restart tourism.

Tourism statewide plummeted following the March 26 start of a mandatory, 14-day self-quarantine for incoming passengers to Hawaii, which was extended to interisland travelers April 1.

Before the quarantine, about 30,000 travelers arrived to Hawaii daily. On Saturday, 1,268 people arrived in Hawaii from outside the state, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said.

The Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association recently released health and safety protocols to help provide a path for reopening tourism.

But Eric Gill, Local 5’s financial secretary-treasurer, said the plan is inadequate.

“Testing of frontline workers and visitors needs to be part of any plan to reopen Hawaii tourism,” Gill said.

Hawaii’s hotel industry has not committed to any of the proposals in a “Safe Hotels, Safe Hawaii” report the union released last month, Gill said.

Hawaii’s hotel industry employees cannot return to work without a commitment from employers or the state Legislature to provide health benefits for those who do not have enough hours to qualify or are furloughed, Gill said.

Locals take back tourist-free Waikiki

HONOLULU (AP) — Growing up in Hawaii, Amber Lethem’s family avoided Waikiki, the world-famous tourist mecca.

“I reflect back on my childhood, Waikiki has always been this pinnacle of like that’s where all the tourists are,” Lethem said. “We didn’t really go into Waikiki, ever.”

Many other locals would also shun Waikiki’s congested streets and herds of slow-moving tourists.

But now that the coronavirus pandemic has forced state leaders to impose a 14-day quarantine on travelers arriving to the islands, Waikiki is mostly a ghost town. Gov. David Ige has extended the traveler quarantine through June.

So, locals are taking Waikiki back. Residents are enjoying wide sidewalks for running and walking. They’re swimming — with lots of room for social distancing — in waters normally clogged with awestruck and sunburned tourists. There’s more parking available for those escaping small houses and apartments in neighborhoods that don’t have sidewalks.

Lethem, a sales coach who lives on the eastern edge of Waikiki that has fewer hotels, said she’s able to enjoy the area for the first time in her life in ways she hasn’t be able to before.

“I have been experiencing Waikiki more, and it’s definitely in a different paradigm,” she said. “It’s overwhelming with tons of tourists. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a lot. It’s like, it’s intense.”

Tourists “are sometimes oblivious,” Lethem said. “They’re so enamored by being in Hawaii that they’re not as present to people who are local.”

She’s appreciating how “beautiful and calm” her community is now. “And I’m so happy to enjoy it in this capacity right now,” she said.

As of Sunday, Hawaii had 652 cases of coronavirus. There have been 17 deaths.

Hawaii’s traveler quarantine has dramatically reduced the number of daily passengers coming to the tourism-dependent state. On Thursday, 300 visitors arrived in the state, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. During the same time last year, nearly 30,000 passengers arrived daily.

“Waikiki is not Waikiki anymore, obviously,” said Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association. “So it is a good opportunity for local residents to, you know, enjoy some of those things, perhaps in the past that they’ve been in competition with visitors.”

He warned that if all goes well, an empty Waikiki will be short-lived: “Go now because it’s not always going to that way because we have to get people back to work.”

Hawaii has long grappled with how many tourists are too many.

“People say slow it down, less tourists. But that also means a significant number of people are not going to be working,” Hannemann said. “Tourism fuels the economy. If they’re not working, then Hawaii can’t sustain itself.”

Until the tourists return in force, Melissa Chang is enjoying driving from her nearby Honolulu neighborhood to walk along Waikiki’s wide sidewalks.

“I could walk in my own neighborhood, but there’s a lot of homeless. So it’s actually safer to drive to entrance of Waikiki and walk there,” she said.

Previously, the social media professional would go into Waikiki only if she needed to for work. “But for recreation, I’d probably go somewhere else,” she said.

Now, it’s more pleasant, and “you can park almost anywhere,” Chang said.

Biden wins Hawaii’s party-run presidential poll


The Associated Press

HONOLULU — Joe Biden won the Democratic Party of Hawaii’s party-run presidential primary Saturday, which was delayed by more than a month because of the coronavirus.

Biden defeated Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 63 percent to 37 percent.

Biden won 16 of Hawaii’s delegates and Sanders will take eight. Biden has a total of 1,566 delegates to the party’s national convention, according to the count by the Associated Press. He needs 1,991 delegates to win the nomination, a threshold he is projected to reach in June.

A total of 35,044 voters cast ballots in the party-run primary. All ballots were cast by mail.

The party had initially planned to hold the primary on April 4 and had expected most party members would vote by mail and some would cast ballots at about 20 in-person polling sites around the state.

It began mailing ballots to registered party members in early March back when Sanders and Biden were the two front-runners and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard was still maintaining her long-shot bid for the nomination.

But concerns about the spread of the coronavirus forced the party to announce on March 20 it would cancel plans for in-person voting and allow only mail ballots. To give those who expected to vote in person on April 4 a chance to cast a ballot, the party said it would mail another round of ballots to members and wait until late May for them to be returned and counted.

Amidst these shifts, Gabbard dropped out and endorsed Biden. Sanders ended his bid and endorsed Biden on April 13.

Voters were instructed to mark their top three choices on paper ballots.

Only candidates receiving at least 15 percent of the votes cast in a given congressional district were to be allocated delegates. Votes for candidates who didn’t receive at least 15 percent were redistributed to voters’ second-ranked choices, starting with the candidate who received the lowest number of votes.

Gabbard represents Hawaii’s second congressional district in Congress, and got 4 percent of the vote in the first round of voting. She was absent from the district during much of the year while she campaigned for the presidency in Iowa and New Hampshire. State Sen. Kai Kahele, a fellow Democrat, fiercely criticized her for neglecting her constituents and mounted a campaign for her seat, which covers suburban Honolulu and the more rural islands of the state. Not long after, Gabbard said she wouldn’t run for reelection and would focus on her presidential bid.

Hawaii Democrats hired a contractor, Merriman River Group, to handle aspects of the election, including designing the vote-by-mail package and safely keeping returned ballots. The company has experience running elections for labor unions and organizations such as the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, the electric utility on Kauai island.

The Republican Party of Hawaii canceled its presidential caucus after President Donald Trump was the only candidate to declare for the ballot by the Dec. 2 deadline. The party is committing its national convention delegates to Trump.

Coronavirus pandemic knocks out large sections of states’s economy

HONOLULU — In normal times, Roland Chang and his three sons start their day at dawn, picking up tourists in Waikiki and driving them to the ocean for a boat ride to see dolphins and turtles swimming in clear blue waters. Four nights a week, the family’s band performs Hawaiian music and popular songs at a hotel.

Their friends call them workaholics. To them, it’s a routine. Or was until the coronavirus pandemic landed.

Like many businesses in tourism-dependent Hawaii, the Changs’ company has had no income for two months. And they don’t know if it will survive to see a post-COVID-19 world. But they agree with the restrictions imposed in the name of public health. And the family, who is Native Hawaiian, believes there will be rebirth afterward. Roland Chang’s sister NJ compared the wreckage to the way the fire goddess lays waste when a volcano erupts and lava flows across the land.

“Madam Pele has always cleaned out. I think that’s what we’re going through,” said NJ Chang, a school teacher and band vocalist and guitar player. “This is a cleaning out process, I believe, for us to all heal.”

Much healing will be required.

A University of Hawaii survey of 623 businesses conducted with the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii showed 34 percent had no revenue last month. In Maui County — which is even more heavily reliant on tourism than the rest of the state — that number was 61 percent.

Among arts, entertainment and recreation companies — which include tours like the Changs’ — employment has declined 82 percent compared to January. Revenues in 2020 are forecast to sink 65 percent from last year.

The numbers are similarly ugly for hotels and almost as bad for restaurants and retailers. Statewide, the unemployment rate is estimated to be between 25 percent and 35 percent. Food distribution events run by the Salvation Army and other nonprofits draw lines of cars that stretch for miles.

The Changs are living on savings. Their company, EO Waianae Tours, which has four full-time employees, applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan for small businesses to help them get through the crisis. They’re not applying for unemployment benefits.

They have some investment funds they were thinking about using to expand their business but they may now hold off because the future is so uncertain. Their tour business may even have to close.

“I think there are a lot more questions than answers,” Roland Chang said. “I’ve got to guarantee that everyone on my boat won’t get the virus. How do I protect them?”

Among the unknowns: Do they reduce the number of people on their boat (it can hold up to 26 passengers and four crew) so everyone can practice social distancing? Will they have to raise their tour rates to break even as a result? Will they need disposable snorkel gear for clients instead of lending them gear as in the past? Will travelers even come?

“On the totem pole of life right now, people are just trying to put food on the table. Until that gets rectified, it’s going to be hard to say how many people are going to actively, consistently keep the tour business open,” he said.

To slow the spread of the virus, Hawaii Gov. David Ige issued a stay-at-home order in late March and mandated that all travelers adhere to a strict 14-day quarantine when they arrive in the islands. The number of tourists has slowed to a trickle of about 200 per day, down from 30,000 before the pandemic.

Roland Chang said he supports these moves, given they are so important to protect the elderly who are more vulnerable to the disease.

“They’re at the higher risk level. Without them, we don’t have a future. So let’s keep them going. Tourism will heal itself,” he said.

Just like the plants that sprout from lava fields years after molten rock covers the land, he said.

For now, the family’s band, Kanilau, streams an hourlong show on Facebook from Roland’s living room once a week. The hotel they normally would be performing at — Embassy Suites in Waikiki, has been closed since late March but it posts the session on its Facebook page. Repeat guests who have listened to them for years leave comments like “Aloha from Minnesota!” and “Canada loves you guys.”

They don’t get paid for their livestream. But the songs keep them going emotionally. Even if the tour business doesn’t survive, they vow the band will.

“It’s in our DNA,” NJ Chang said.

Tagovailoa a rarity in the NFL

When Tua Tagovailoa signed his rookie contract with the Miami Dolphins, the left-handed quarterback from Alabama didn’t have to worry about smudging his signature.

He signed the documents with his right hand.

Yes, the NFL’s latest lefty QB is a natural right-hander, one whose father, Galu, turned him into a (sometimes) southpaw in his youth.

“My dad was the only lefty in our family and he wanted me to be a lefty as well, so he switched the way I threw,” explained Tagovailoa, who still eats, writes and golfs right-handed but shoots baskets and throws footballs with his left.

“I don’t think I would be here if I was a righty,” said Tagovailoa. “Because I know I’m only good with my left hand throwing the ball.”

That makes the Saint Louis School graduate an oddity in the NFL, where a left-hander hasn’t started at quarterback since 2015, when Dallas’ Kellen Moore threw for 435 yards in a Week 17 loss to Washington.

Since then, 116 quarterbacks have thrown a pass in the NFL, and all of them were right-handed.

The last lefty to throw a TD pass wasn’t even a quarterback but a wide receiver: the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant threw a 25-yard strike to Jason Witten in 2016 against Detroit.

Fewer than three dozen southpaws have played quarterback in the NFL’s 100-year history, something that irks Steve Young, the most decorated left-handed QB and the first to reach the Hall of Fame, 11 years before Ken Stabler’s posthumous induction in 2016.

“There’s something wrong from a statistical standpoint,” Young said, noting that with 10 percent of the general population being left-handed, every year there should be a half-dozen lefties among the league’s 64 or so quarterbacks.

“And we’ve never been 10 percent,” Young said. “I can never remember six of us at one time. It was Boomer Esiason, myself, Mark Brunell, Jim Zorn early on. I can think of four or five, never six at one time, ever. Later on, Michael Vick.”

Now, lefties are lucky there’s even one of them.

“I will never say a kid is left-handed so he can’t play in the National Football League,” Steelers GM Colbert said. “That would be a naive statement. That would never concern us whatsoever.”

Added 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan: “A good thrower is a good thrower. I would say it’s probably a coincidence, probably less pool to choose from.”

The bias certainly doesn’t begin in the pros.

“I don’t follow all college teams, but I never see a lefty quarterback,” Young said. “So, the NFL might say, ‘Hey don’t look at me. There’s no lefties coming out of college.’ Then, the colleges say, ‘Look, there’s no lefties coming out of high school.’ ”

Even the experts are stumped over what’s caused this paucity of southpaws.

“I really don’t know the answer,” shrugged Ravens GM Eric DeCosta.

“Quite honestly, I don’t know,” added Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff.

“I usually have an answer or can dance around a lot of things,” Vikings GM Rick Spielman acknowledged. “That one, I have no answer to.”

“I don’t have an answer,” either, added Broncos GM John Elway, who did offer a guess: he wonders if all the good lefty QBs are becoming pitchers instead.

“Those lefties that can throw heat are pretty coveted,” said Elway, himself a minor league farmhand (as a right-handed outfielder) in the Yankees system the summer before beginning his Hall of Fame NFL career.

“If I could be a left-handed pitcher and throw in the 90s and play major league baseball, that’s a pretty good gig,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “I don’t have anyone 300 pounds running at me trying to take me down.”

Young doesn’t blame baseball.

“I could never have been a major league pitcher, I couldn’t have even been a college pitcher. But I could play quarterback,” Young said.

“So, the only thing I can go with is that coaches don’t want to coach lefties.”

Young speaks from experience.

He was an incoming freshman at Brigham Young in 1981 when the Cougars’ offensive coordinator, Doug Scovil, pulled him aside and told him bluntly that he didn’t coach left-handed quarterbacks, so he’d better move to safety.

Scovil soon left, however, to become the head coach at San Diego State.

“Luckily, or I was done,” Young said. “I was cooked. I was playing defensive back with Tom Holmoe.”

Not long after Scovil left, QBs coach Ted Tollner spotted Young throwing beautiful spirals at practice and asked him why he wasn’t under center.

“I said, ‘Because I’m a lefty,’ ” Young recounted. “He says, ‘Well, that’s stupid.’ ”

So, Young went back to throwing passes, not defending them, “and nobody else ever said a word about me being a lefty.”

He’s certain, however, that kids are still told if they’re left-handed they can’t play quarterback.

“No one would admit it, but I think there must be enough people who don’t want to coach them,” Young said.

Sure, the ball spins and tails in the opposite direction out of a lefty’s hand, but so what?

“It was kind of weird at first,” said Broncos rookie receiver Jerry Jeudy, who played with Tagovailoa at Alabama. “After three catches or so, you get used to it real fast.”

Being such a scarcity, lefty QBs actually have an advantage because opponents aren’t accustomed to facing offenses that have had to flip the playbook on its vertical axis, Young suggested.

“Our teams in San Francisco were always ‘left-handed’ because I was left-handed,” Young said. “And I think there’s a slight advantage because no one else shows up with a left-handed quarterback and such comfort coming out left, rolling left, left-to-right formations. And so for a defense, it was just different.”

Recently, teams haven’t needed have to change the makeup of their offensive line to accommodate a lefty, either. With so many elite edge rushers, right tackles have become just as valued as left tackles, the traditional blindside protectors.

“That disparity just doesn’t exist anymore,” said Brunell, who played 17 seasons in the NFL and now coaches high school football in Florida. He tutors QBs at the league’s annual scouting combine.

“You’ve got to have two elite tackles anyway,” Brunell said.

That’s one more reason Young insists it’s foolhardy to consider lefties a liability —î at any level.

“I’d make the argument that lefties are more valuable,” Young said.

And he’s eager to watch Tagovailoa go out and prove that.