House Select Committee on COVID-19 Presented with Final Public Health Recovery Task Force Report
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – The House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness today reviewed the final report by the Hawaiʻi COVID-19 Public Health Recovery Task Force on reopening our economy.
Hawaiʻi Medical Service Association President & CEO Dr. Mark Mugiishi said the 38-page report is the result of the hard work by a group of dedicated experts from business, government, healthcare, and nonprofit sectors.
Mugiishi said the task force has created a strategic, evidence-based approach to reopening the economy so that public health can be factored into the rationale as we move into different levels of recovery.
The partnership's recovery plan uses a color-coded Alert Model based on scientific evidence and drawing on best practices from around the world. This model will guide the state as we move to phase out some public access restrictions, decide what steps each sector must take to reopen safely, and understand and prepare for any new surge of infections.
Mugiishi credited the success of the plan to the diversity and expertise of all those involved and the leadership of the House committee's public health task force, Major General Kenneth Hara of the Hawaiʻi Department of Defense Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HiEMA), and Alan Oshima, the Recovery and Resiliency Navigator.
Mugiishi said the plan was presented to Governor David Ige to use as a guide in his recovery plan.
The committee also heard a report from Judge Daniel R. Foley on the process of inmate releases resulting from State Supreme Court orders to reduce jail populations statewide to mitigate COVID-19 risks.
Committee members and the public have expressed concerns about inmates being released without proper supervision, without anywhere to live, and possibly committing new crimes and being returned to the prison population infected with the coronavirus.
Foley said about 800 nonviolent inmates have been released from incarceration early following judicial reviews. He said each inmate must follow conditions of release set up by the state and be supervised by a probation officer.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the lack of permanent housing should not limit a person's ability to be released from prison, Foley said, and due to coronavirus restrictions, parole officers monitor the inmates by phone rather than in person.
Foley did not know how many inmates had committed new crimes and returned to prison.
There have been no positive COVID-19 cases in any of the state's correctional facilities and Representative Della Au Belatti asked if inmates that do commit new crimes are tested for the virus when sent back to prison.
Foley said they are not tested but have their temperature taken and if they have any indication of an infection, are placed in quarantine.
Carl Bonham, Executive Director of University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO), suggested that with the state's increased ability to test asymptomatic people, testing people being placed in the prison population should be a priority to prevent an outbreak in the closed environment.
The committee will meet again on Tuesday, May 26.
For more information about the committee and to see related documents go to https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/specialcommittee.aspx?comm=cov&year=2020.