Looking Back: Pandemic takes hold

  • Wendy Nishihara, RN administers COVID vaccine to Respiratory Therapy Supervisor Lynn Reinert Dec. 23. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Premier Medical RN Robin Nakayama prepares tests to be sent to the lab in October at a drive-up COVID-19 testing at the West Hawaii Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Trans-Pacific passengers wait in line to get their COVID rapid test in October at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Premier Medical personnel perform COVID-19 Rapid Tests on trans-Pacific passengers on Oct. 16 at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • An airport employee, right, helps a traveler access the Safe Travels information on his phone after arriving at Hilo International Airport on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Safe Travels allows airport employees to see a passenger's result from the pre-travel COVID-19 test. Photo by Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald

  • Sumiko Yamamoto takes a photo with her children at her 100th birthday celebration in August at Life Care Center of Kona. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • The National Guard distributes food at The Food Basket's Ohana Food Drop in November at Kekuaokalani Gym. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • National Guardsmen distribute food at The Food Basket's Ohana Food Drop in November at Kekuaokalani Gym. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • The North Kohala community came out to celebrate Kohala High School’s Class of 2020 during a special celebration held May 23 in Kapaau. (Anna Pacheco/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • A Kealakehe High School graduate is joined by his family during a May drive-through ceremony. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Recreation director Stacyn Sakuma waves alongside Susumu Nakagawa and Kozo Hirayama during a parade in front of Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home for Memorial Day on May 22. (Photo by Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald)

  • Toni Symons gets a COVID-19 test from Robin Nakayama, RN, in October at the West Hawaii Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

When the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, few knew what the first year of the new decade would bring.

But the specter of a global pandemic that would upend life as we know it already loomed large in the early days of 2020.


Exactly one year ago today, the World Health Organization’s country office in China picked up on reports of a viral pneumonia in Wuhan.

Despite efforts to contain the culprit — a newly identified coronavirus — the respiratory virus rapidly spread around the world.

The disease caused by the novel coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, halted travel worldwide. It canceled concerts and other gatherings, closed theaters and businesses, forced students and teachers out of classrooms and online. The virus brought with it lockdowns, isolation and economic disaster. Wave after wave of surging case counts strained health care and other resources across America and the globe.

Between Jan. 21 and Feb. 23, public health agencies detected 14 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., all related to travel from China, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The first nontravel-related case was confirmed Feb. 26 in a California resident, and a second such case was confirmed in Washington state two days later, the CDC said.

But in the 12 months since the virus was first detected, more than 82.5 million cases have been reported worldwide. Some 19.6 million of those cases have been in the United States.

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 1.8 million people around the globe and 341,000 in America.

Hawaii reported its first case of the virus on March 6 in a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise in Mexico who became ill after flying home to Oahu.

Since then, 21,103 cases have been reported statewide, and there have been 285 COVID-related deaths in Hawaii, including 51 on the Big Island.

While Hawaii has fared better than most mainland states, a mandatory two-week quarantine for travelers, implemented earlier this year by Gov. David Ige, decimated Hawaii’s main economic driver: tourism.

As a result, Hawaii is facing unprecedented budgetary shortfalls that will affect every area of state government.

The impact of COVID-19 will reverberate far beyond 2020.

What follows is a month-by-month recap of the year’s COVID-19 developments:

Dec. 31, 2019: The WHO’s country office in China picks up reports of cases of a “viral pneumonia” in Wuhan, Hubei province. Several health authorities from around the world contact the WHO for additional information.

The culprit is later determined to be a newly identified coronavirus.

Jan. 11: Chinese media reports the first death from the novel coronavirus.

Jan. 13: The first reported lab-confirmed case of the novel coronavirus outside of China is reported by the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand.

Jan. 21: The U.S. reports its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus.

Jan 22.: State health officials urge residents to be vigilant but not panic after the virus reaches the West Coast.

“The risk of infection here in Hawaii remains very low in our estimation,” then-Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson said. “The confirmation of limited person-to-person transmission, though, does raise some concern.”

Jan. 30: WHO declares the outbreak a global health emergency.

Jan. 31: The U.S. declares a public health emergency, and President Donald Trump signs an order that will temporarily bar foreign nationals, other than immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, who have traveled in China within the past two weeks.

The U.S. also will begin funneling all flights to the U.S. from China to seven major airports, where passengers can be screened for illnesses, including the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu.

Feb. 11: The WHO announces the disease caused by the novel coronavirus will be named COVID-19.

Feb. 14: A Japanese man who traveled to Hawaii earlier in the month has since been diagnosed with COVID-19, state health officials confirm.

The adult man traveled from Japan to Maui Jan. 28 to Feb. 3 and then to Oahu Feb. 3-7. He was asymptomatic while on Maui, but developed cold-like symptoms while on Oahu, but no fever.

He returned to Aichi Prefecture and developed more serious symptoms, for which he sought medical care.

Feb. 19: Gov. David Ige wants Hawaii to be a beta-tester for kits that can screen for COVID-19. At this time, all laboratory testing to confirm COVID-19 has to be done at the CDC in Atlanta.

Test kits originally sent to state laboratories, including Hawaii, were found to be defective.

Feb. 21: Four individuals on the Big Island are now self-monitoring for COVID-19. The individuals were identified through screening at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu. At this time, no cases of COVID-19 are reported in Hawaii, but 56 people across the state are self-monitoring.

Feb. 28: The state DOH is now able to test for COVID-19 in-state.

The DOH was able to successfully test a visitor from California, a health care worker who had been providing care to a patient later confirmed to have COVID-19.

Mayor Harry Kim also issues the county’s first emergency proclamation to increase preparedness for the likely spread of COVID-19 in Hawaii.

March 3: One of three people under investigation for possible COVID-19, in isolation at Hilo Medical Center, has tested negative for the novel coronavirus disease. The patient came in sick off of a cruise ship days before.

March 4: State health officials are monitoring a situation regarding a cruise ship that recently made stops in Hawaii and may have had passengers previously exposed to COVID-19.

Two passengers on a cruise aboard the Grand Princess — which sailed from San Francisco to Mexico Feb. 11-21, but not to Hawaii — tested positive for COVID-19. One of those individuals died after the cruise. However, the ship — which embarked on a new cruise to Hawaii Feb. 26-29 — visited four ports on four different islands. One crew member became ill and was admitted to Hilo Medical Center but tested negative for COVID-19. State epidemiologist Sarah Park said that 54 passengers on the first cruise continued onto the current cruise, but other than the crew member, no other illness was reported while in Hawaii.

March 4: Ige issues an emergency proclamation that would authorize the use of state funds for the purchase of supplies and equipment, and the speedy response to conditions that may be created by COVID-19.

The proclamation also gives the state funding flexibility and allows the governor to suspend laws that may impede the efficient execution of emergency functions.

Ige appoints Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a West Hawaii physician, as the administration’s liaison between the state and health care community as it pertains to COVID-19 preparedness and response.

March 4: Congressional leaders approve $8.3 billion in emergency funding to respond to the ongoing outbreak, including $4.5 million for Hawaii.

The bipartisan deal also includes telehealth legislation authored by Hawaii U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, which will expand the use of telehealth services during the outbreak.

March 6: The first case of COVID-19 in Hawaii is confirmed. The individual was a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise in Mexico who became ill after flying home to Oahu.

More than 10 passengers on a cruise aboard the Grand Princess that sailed from San Francisco to Mexico Feb. 11-21 tested positive for COVID-19.

A second subsequent cruise aboard the Grand Princess, including dozens of passengers who also sailed on the initial Mexican voyage, visited four stops in Hawaii in late February — Nawiliwili, Kauai, on Feb. 26; Honolulu on Feb. 27; Lahaina, Maui, on Feb. 28; and Hilo on Feb. 29.

March 11: Concerned by the “alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming level of inaction,” the WHO characterizes the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic.

March 11: Department of Transportation Director Jade Butay says the state has no jurisdiction in deciding whether or not to close ports in Hawaii amid the ongoing outbreak. That responsibility instead lies with the federal government.

However, the Coast Guard does have authority to block individual ships from entering ports.

March 11: At stores around Hawaii Island, soap, disinfectant, rubbing alcohol and other cleaning items are in short supply or stocks have been entirely depleted due to COVID-related demand and panic purchasing.

March 12: University of Hawaii President David Lassner announces that the 10-campus UH system will move to online classes beginning March 23, the first day of instruction following spring break.

March 12: The 2020 Merrie Monarch Festival is canceled due to concerns about the COVID-19 coronavirus.

March 12: Hawaii Island’s long-term nursing and care facilities have implemented unified no-visitor policies in light of the ongoing pandemic.

March 14: The CDC issues a No Sail Order and suspends further embarkation for cruise ships in American waters. The order ultimately is extended through Oct. 29.

March 15: Spring break for Hawaii’s public schools and charter schools will be extended through March 27 due to concerns about the pandemic. Students will not return to in-person school for the remainder of the year.

March 16: Ige signs a supplemental emergency proclamation directing residents to follow public health guidelines, including social distancing measures, and Ige said specifically that gatherings of 100 or more should be suspended or canceled.

Ige also appoints Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Hawaii adjutant general and director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, as the state’s COVID-19 incident commander.

March 16: The state Legislature suspends its in-progress 2020 session indefinitely.

March 17: A visitor from the mainland is the first confirmed Hawaii Island case of COVID-19.

March 17: Ige urges potential visitors to the islands to postpone their vacations for at least 30 days and says all passengers disembarking cruise ships will be screened. The governor says social gatherings should be limited to no more than 10, requests that bars, clubs and theaters close, and says restaurants should change operations to provide drive-through, takeout, pickup or delivery service, among other actions.

March 20: The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state has risen to 37. Two cases have no recent travel history, indicating the virus is now being transmitted via community members.

March 20: Hawaii County Council asks then-Mayor Harry Kim to institute a two-week lockdown of the county that includes a mandatory “shelter in place” for residents if conditions worsen.

In the meantime, the council asks the mayor to enforce a modified lockdown where only allowed activities and essential businesses can operate.

March 25: Ige’s third supplementary proclamation, which orders the entire state to stay at home and work from home through April 30, is now in effect.

“You should stay at home,” Ige said. “If you need to go to work, go to work, and when you’re done with work, you should come back home. If you need to get groceries and necessities, you should go get groceries and necessities. For any other time, you should be at home.”

March 26: All trans-Pacific visitors and residents returning to Hawaii must now undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Zero planes landed at Hilo International Airport and only 10 arrived at Kona International Airport. Statewide, arrivals dropped by 87% this week and state officials anticipate visitation rates will drop even further.

March 27: The U.S. now has more than 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, more than any other nation. A day earlier, there were 82,000 confirmed virus cases. Two weeks earlier, the U.S. had about 3,500 cases, and four weeks prior the country had 68.

April 1: Ige implements a mandatory two-week quarantine for interisland travelers to help slow community spread of the virus.

April 1: The first COVID-related death in Hawaii is that of an elderly Oahu man who tested positive for the novel coronavirus after being hospitalized.

April 1 : The Food Basket has recently started doing Ohana Food Drops, proving food to families and individuals in need.  The drops — a drive-through operation in which participants remain in their cars and provide information to food bank staff and volunteers through signage and hand motions — replaces The Food Basket’s normal “high touch” distributions as an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

April 3: Ige orders the partial activation of four units of the Hawaii National Guard to provide support during the ongoing pandemic.

April 6: More than 10,000 COVID-related deaths have now been reported in the U.S.

April 7: Hawaii Island restaurants are struggling amid the state’s stay-at-home order. Restaurants throughout the island have either shut down or transitioned to takeout, curbside pickup or delivery options.

April 7: The number of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii tops 400.

Kim says county police, who are tasked with enforcing the state’s 14-day interisland quarantine, aren’t receiving in a timely manner the names of interisland travelers subjected to the quarantine, or where they’re staying.

April 10: More than 100,000 people worldwide have now died due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 14: A dozen individuals associated with two McDonald’s locations in Kailua-Kona have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but state health officials say there’s no significant risk to public health. The cluster would eventually grow to more than 30 cases.

April 16: An additional 800 Hawaii National Guard soldiers and airmen join the 400 guardsmen previously activated to further assist in the fight against COVID-19.

April 16: The state Supreme Court orders the Hawaii Paroling Authority to “expeditiously address requests for early parole” for prisoners because of the pandemic.

The parole board is ordered to consider releasing the most vulnerable among the inmate population, including those who are 65 or older, pregnant women, inmates who are close to the end of their sentences and have been moved to minimum security, and those being detailed for parole violations that wouldn’t be crimes if they weren’t parolees.

April 17: Ige signs a fifth emergency supplementary proclamation that includes an eviction moratorium, preventing any eviction from a residence for failure to pay rent. The proclamation also enhances social distancing requirement, orders the closure of all state beaches, and limits the group sizes for recreational boating, hiking and fishing outings, among other measures.

April 21: Hawaii workers already receiving unemployment benefits because of the pandemic should start receiving additional $600 weekly “plus up” payments, in addition to their regular claim payments.

April 22: Two men and a woman, all from Everett, Wash., are arrested in Hilo and charged with violating Gov. David Ige’s mandatory 14-day quarantine order for visitors.

April 22: The first COVID-19 patient has been admitted to Kona Community Hospital.

April 25: A sixth supplementary proclamation extends the emergency disaster period through May 31, including the state’s stay-at-home order, quarantine and social distancing requirements.

April 27: The state is making headway in processing and paying a staggering amount of jobless filings. Nearly 310,000 new unemployment filings have been made since March 1, of which 221,731 were “unique filings.”

April 29: More than 60,000 people in the U.S. have now died due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 20,000 more than on April 20.

Meanwhile, a new state program, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, or PUA — supported by the CARES Act — will allow self-employed workers, independent contractors and “gig economy” workers to receive unemployment assistance.

April 29: “The curve has flattened,” Lt. Gov. Green announces a month after Ige’s stay-at-home order and mandatory 14-day quarantines for travelers went into effect.

April 29: Clinical Labs of Hawaii begins conducting antibody tests throughout the state, which determine whether an individual has been infected with or recovered from COVID-19.

April 30: Visitor spending and arrivals on Hawaii Island plummeted in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to statistics from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Visitor spending fell 44.3% to $113.4 million as a result of declines in visitor days and average daily spending. Arrivals dropped 53.6% to 78,389.

May 1: The state DOH has distributed to 12 Abbot ID NOW COVID-19 rapid test instruments to the counties. The rapid test can produce results within minutes when conducted in a certified laboratory.

May 5: Facing an uncertain economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, Kim lops $40.8 million off the preliminary budget he presented earlier this year. Kim’s revised budget includes estimated revenues and spending of $585.1 million, 6.5% less than his original proposal and 0.1% lower than the current year. The budget is balanced by cutting some services and by taxing the wealthiest property owners.

May 5: Ige signs a seventh supplementary emergency proclamation that permits the first group of businesses to reopen since the pandemic forced the temporary closure of non-essential businesses on March 25.

May 18: Ige unveils a reopening and recovery plan for Hawaii. According to the plan, the state will begin to gradually reopen medium-risk businesses and operations in June, should the state’s COVID-19 activity remain manageable, with high-risk businesses, such as gyms, to follow.

The reopening and recovery strategy, known as Beyond Recovery: Reopening Hawaii, has four phases: stabilization, reopening, long-term recovery and resilience.

May 22: More than 95,000 people in the U.S. have died due to the pandemic.

May 26: Interisland shipper Young Brothers is seeking $25 million in federal coronavirus relief funds from the state to stay afloat amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, after Young Brothers’ parent company said the shipping company will no longer receive cash infusions.

June 4: A total of 31,712 new jobless claims were filed in Hawaii County between March 15 and May 30, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

June 10: The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has issued more than $803 million in unemployment benefits since March 1.

June 11: The U.S. has surpassed two million confirmed COVID-19 cases, nearly double the number of cases since May 1.

June 11: Police arrest 21 individuals, including a self-proclaimed cult leader, in a pair of sweeps in Fern Forest and Hawaiian Paradise Park. Twenty, all from out of state, were taken into custody on suspicion of violating the state’s 14-day travel quarantine.

Social media posts claimed members of the “Carbon Nation,” a group referred to in numerous media accounts as a cult, are on the Big Island. The group’s 38-year-old leader, Eligio Lee Bishop, who’s also known as “Nature Boy,” was among those arrested in HPP.

June 12: Kim issues an eighth emergency rule that permits most businesses and activities on Hawaii Island, including short-term vacation rentals, to reopen. The action comes days after a group of transient vacation rental owners on four islands threatened a $1 billion lawsuit if they were not allowed to reopen.

June 15: Bishop,a self-professed cult leader, pleads no contest to violating the state’s mandatory 14-day coronavirus quarantine in a deal that allows him and 20 followers to leave the state.

Bishop was sentenced to 90 days in jail with credit for time served and the remainder of the jail time suspended for a year. Conditions of the sentence include that Bishop not commit any crimes during that period and that he “not return to Hawaii Island for the duration of the emergency period” proclaimed by Gov. David Ige.

In return for his plea, prosecutors dropped a second quarantine violation charge against Bishop and agreed to dismiss charges against the others in the Carbon Nation group.

June 16: The interisland quarantine requirement is now lifted, although the mandatory quarantine remains in place for those traveling from out-of-state.

June 24: Ige announces that a new COVID-19 pre-travel testing program for out-of-state travelers will launch on Aug. 1 as an alternative to the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Travelers arriving in Hawaii from out of state must have a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival in order to bypass the quarantine requirement. Details are still being worked out.

Subsequent delays, however, would later push the start of the program back to mid-October.

June 26: The state Legislature says it will appropriate $90 million for COVID-19 screening efforts in Hawaii’s main airports, including those on Hawaii Island. The funding will be used for thermal screening systems, security protocols, web-based verification applications, traveler verification rooms, swab and testing facilities, as well as a service contract to ramp up testing.

July 1: Details about the how county will use its $80 million share from the CARES Act begin to take shape as county administrator work to identify funding opportunities in a number of categories.

July 5: As Hawaii surpasses 1,000 COVID-19 cases, Lt. Gov. Green says he is concerned about a potential surge in cases following Independence Day festivities. The 41 new COVID-19 cases reported statewide is “a wake-up call for all of us that it is still a serious threat in Hawaii,” then-state Health Director Bruce Anderson said.

July 8: The U.S. surpasses 131,000 COVID-19 deaths and 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases.

July 8: The County Council passes an $80 million relief package, tapping into federal coronavirus funds.

July 9: Young Brothers requests regulators approve an emergency or temporary rate increase of nearly 47% to sustain interisland cargo services through the end of the year.

July 25: Hawaii sets a new single-day record for COVID-19 cases with 73, the third consecutive day Hawaii topped its previous single-day high.

July 27: Hawaii is among a dozen places or regions being considered to resume safe international travel with Japan.

July 29: The state reports 109 new COVID-19 cases, the new record one-day high. It is the first time Hawaii’s daily case count has hit triple digits since the start of the pandemic.

Because of the recent surge in cases, Ige proposes Hawaii’s four counties reinstate measures, initially implemented to curb the spread of the virus, that had been relaxed in recent weeks.

July 29: All jury trials on Hawaii Island are now postponed until at least Sept. 1.

Aug. 3: A new single-day record is set when 207 new cases of COVID-19 is reported statewide.

Aug. 6: A fast-tracked resolution unanimously approved gives each County Council member $100,000 in federal coronavirus relief money to distribute to constituents, without competitive bids or public notice. The money comes from the $80 million the county is receiving from the CARES Act.

Aug. 11: A partial interisland travel quarantine is reinstated for travelers arriving to Kauai, Hawaii, Maui and Kalawao counties.

Aug. 12: Hawaii’s COVID-19 cases are surging, with several days of triple-digit case counts.

Aug. 13: A record-high 355 new COVID-19 cases are reported in Hawaii. The statewide death toll is now 40.

Aug. 17: The state Public Utilities Commission approves an emergency request from Young Brothers to increase rates by 46%, or $27 million, to keep the company afloat amid the ongoing pandemic.

Aug. 24: Two employees of Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo have tested positive for COVID-19, the first cases in a Big Island long-term care facility. The virus would eventually spread rapidly through the facility. Over the next several weeks, 71 residents and 35 employees tested positive for COVID-19, and 27 residents died.

Aug. 24: In recent days, Hawaii Island has had at least 33 new COVID-19 cases, most of which are in East Hawaii. Hawaii County Civil Defense says recent Hawaii Island community spread of the virus might be associated with Hilo-based gatherings where people failed to practice preventive measures.

Aug. 30: Two residents of Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home died, marking the first COVID-related deaths on Hawaii Island.

Aug. 31: An employee of Hale Anuenue Restorative Care Center has tested positive for COVID-19, but the facility won’t see an outbreak of the disease.

Sept. 3: Hawaii secures four weeks of additional unemployment benefits from the federally-funded Lost Wages Assistance Program, which provided a $300 bonus to various types of unemployment benefits.

Sept. 3: The County Council asks then-Mayor Harry Kim to institute a temporary stay-at-home order to stem the rising tide of virus infections on the island, but Kim contends a lockdown isn’t necessary.

Sept. 4: Hawaii County closes all beach and shoreline parks through Sept. 19 in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19.

Sept. 4: State epidemiologist Park, criticized for her response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is placed on leave days after Health Director Anderson announced his retirement effective Sept. 15.

Sept. 5: Although believed to be related, state health officials say that so far no link has been found tying the recent Hawaii Island coronavirus surge to several large gatherings in late July and early August.

“DOH is aware of four large gatherings in Keaukaha, Hilo, Puna and Kalapana around late July and early August, at which Oahu residents were reported to have attended,” Anderson said in a letter to then-state Sen. Kai Kahele. “Due to the timing of the Hilo surge in mid-August, there is reason to believe they are related to the increase in cases, but as of yet no definitive link has been identified between the events, travel history, and a specific source based on information gathered from contact tracing.”

Sept. 8: The state launches a $100 million Rent Relief and Housing Assistance Program, funded by federal coronavirus relief funds, designed to help Hawaii residents pay for and stay in their current housing amid the ongoing pandemic.

Sept. 9: A state team is assembled to conduct a review of the COVID-19 outbreak response at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home.

An employee of Life Care Center of Hilo also tests positive for the novel coronavirus. The ensuing outbreak will infect 55 residents and 17 employees and kill 10 residents before the facility is again free of the virus in early November.

Sept. 11: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dispatches a team of infection control experts, nurses and other health care professionals to assist with the COVID-19 outbreak at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home.

Sept. 21: Critical reports stemming from recent assessments at Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home have identified a number of factors that might have aided in the spread of COVID-19 throughout the facility. Assessments were conducted separately by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the state Department of Health Office of Health Care Assurance.

Sept. 25: The East Hawaii Region of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. will take over operations and management of the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home from Avalon Health Care after a COVID-19 outbreak ravaged the facility. The transition is set to take place Jan. 1, 2021.

Sept. 29: The Food Basket is now providing assistance to 80,000 people per month through its network of partner agencies and its Ohana Food Drops.

Oct. 1: A cluster of cases is confirmed by the University of the Nations in Kona. Eventually, more than 50 people will become infected.

Oct. 5.: Kona Community Hospital reports its first coronavirus-related death among a woman in her 40s. By year’s end, five people will die at the facility.

Oct. 9: A new single-day record of 45 new COVID-19 cases is set on the Big Island.

Oct. 15: After several delays, the Safe Travels Hawaii pre-travel testing program begins. Trans-Pacific travelers over the age 5 must have a negative nucleic acid amplification test from a “trusted testing partner” within 72 hours from the final leg of departure to the state in order to avoid the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Out-of-state arrivals to Hawaii Island must take a second rapid-response antigen test after landing to avoid quarantine.

Oct. 21: Interisland travelers to Hawaii Island can now choose to take a COVID-19 test up to 72 hours before arriving from a neighbor island and, with a negative result, can skip the 14-day quarantine entirely.

Oct. 30: The CDC issues a Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, replacing the No Sail Order in effect since March. The new order introduces a phased approach for the resumption of passenger cruises.

Nov. 24: Trans-Pacific passengers arriving in Hawaii must now have a negative COVID-19 test result prior to departure in order to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Previously, those who were tested prior to departure but hadn’t received results were subject to quarantine, but were released from quarantine upon the confirmation of a negative result.

Dec. 1: Only three halau — two from California and one from Honolulu that competes every five years — have decided not to participate in a 2021 Merrie Monarch Festival that will be held without a live audience, according to Merrie Monarch President Luana Kawelu.

Dec. 2: All trans-Pacific and intercounty travelers arriving in Kauai are subject to a 14-day quarantine regardless of testing after Ige approves a request from Mayor Derek Kawakami to place a temporary moratorium on Kauai’s participation in the state’s pre-travel testing program.

Dec. 2: A Life Care Center of Kona employee has tested positive for COVID-19 but was not at work for more than a week before testing positive in November.

Dec. 10: The first COVID-19 case is reported in an adult resident of Kalaupapa Settlement in Kalawao County on the island of Molokai. It was the last county within the U.S. with no reported virus cases.

Dec. 11: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues the first emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech.

Dec. 17: The state’s mandatory self-quarantine period for travelers entering the state and traveling between counties is reduced from 14 to 10 days.

Dec. 18: A second vaccine by Moderna receives emergency use authorization from the FDA. Hawaii is expected to receive more than 81,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna by the end of December.

Dec. 21: Ige unveils his 2021-23 biennium budget, which includes significant reductions in both the operating and capital improvement budget. The state anticipates a $1.4 billion shortfall each year.

Dec. 22: The first round of vaccines are given to health care workers at Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea.


Dec. 23: The first round of vaccines are given to health care workers at Kona Community Hospital and Hilo Medical Center.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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