Special Report: Covid. Where? Who? Riskiest Groups?

The State Health Department has been very good about putting out updated statistics on our Covid infections, with excellent graphics. But I suspect few people bother to work through the charts and graphs posted online.

Most people I talk to wonder about the riskiest age group, or what island districts seem to have the most cases. They do know the bars and most schools are closed.

So I thought I’d set it all out today, simplified, in this Tuesday Special Report.

There have been 23,627 (plus yesterday and today) cases of COVID-19 identified in the state. Of those, 7% required hospitalization, and 22,046 (93%) were residents. Averaging about 190 cases per day now, about 140 of those on Oahu, where 3.3% of those tested were positive. Kauai continues to do best, averaging just 2 new cases a day and a 1.8% positive test rate. Obviously, it’s doing some right to bat down the virus.

Vaccination goes slow. About 26,000 so far, about 18,000 of those on Oahu. I’m still waiting in category 1B (old) but I’m hearing about friends/acquaintances much younger than me getting vaccinated at Castle Memorial already. Kaiser just says “soon.”

What areas of what islands produce the most cases? Red’s the worst.  The gray means areas of less than 1,000 population.

You’re most like to be curious what your risk currently is by age group. Here’s that breakdown in one easy graphic: I suspect elderly people are more careful about social distancing and mask wearing

And now about ethnicity or race. No surprises here. The poor and the immigrant population are among the the highest percentages and alarmingly so when you compares cases against percentages of the affected population.

I hope this help you understand the direction our part of the pandemic is going. It’s not encouraging, especially for Oahu.

Let’s hope we get more people vaccinated quickly, that the immunity lasts, and the vaccine will combat the new strains of Covid 19. China had its infection rate under control, but in just the past month, Covid took off there again.

I’m hoping that won’t be our fate.


It’s “Kick The Can” Time Again In Hawaii

It’s one of the things our governors and state lawmakers have been very good at in the tough years of the Iraq War, the 2008 recession, and now with the Covid pandemic: kick that unfunded liabilities can further down the road.

Gov. David Ige is using mainly guesswork about revenue for his 2021 supplemental budget. There will be at least a 10% drop in revenue, but quite likely 20-30%.

We’ll surely be at least a billion dollars short of what’s needed if all essentials are covered and IF we paid into that under-funded pot for government employee pensions and post-retirement medical coverage. Ige’s already talking about just doing basic services and skipping those retirement down payments.

And god knows what our recent spike in new Covid infections will bring on: maybe restaurant closings? maybe mall closings? maybe more unemployment requiring more unemployment payouts? maybe a HUGE revenue drop? The state says it must raise the unemployment,ployment insurance tax. Understandable. But I fear that will only drive more employers to hire more part-timers to avoid other costs such as medical insurance, and more “independent contractors” (like me when I was still writing for MidWeek) who do not qualify for any benefits — not even unemployment compensation under normal, non-pandemic conditions where the feds have not intervened.

My preference would be a national unemployment program covering all gainfully employed and then dis-employed, and funded by moves such as killing Trump’s duplicative Space Force and trimming way back both foreign aid, forces stationed other countries, and some of our enormous contributions to the UN and World Bank. We can’t be bankers to the world.

Meanwhile, the previously-approved state $15.6 billion supplemental  budget for fiscal 2021  is out the window. Also out in Ige’s latest budget are $1 billion for state employee pensions and $1.1 billion for their future medical coverages. But the requirement that those pensions and medical plans be available does not go away. Your kids and grandkids will have to cough up the money and skip some other things.

And I find it laughable that the state is talking about $350 million for a new stadium for the UH to use to play football. You know it would not be built on time and on budget. And right now we’re facing almost an $8 million bill if we just patch up the current one to barely-useable/temporary status. Check out this UH deficit:

Also laughable: exploring a hike in some state taxes. People are unemployed. Businesses are dying. We’re in the midst of an e-commerce revolution. This is a time to scale back services and furlough some public employees, not raise taxes.

If you don’t know, the state is more than $26 billion short of the estimated coming cost of paying promised money and medical coverage for state pensioners. $14 billion of that just the pension payouts. Some gets covered by a good stock market performance. But some would be lost if we have another recession.

IF we paid what due now and in the next few years, it would sap nearly half of the total state budget!

So — kick the can down the road and hope for a great stock market, a great economic recovery and some federal help.

That’s iffy.

Of course, Ige could pay up by furloughing some state workers this year and cutting back their paychecks. We all know that’s not going to happen. Well, maybe minimal furloughs if things get extra rough, but surely no pay cuts.

if the state and counties go back to paying only the premium on public worker health plans, the date when the plan would reach full funding would likely be 2050.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when the can Ige just kicked reaches this year’s Legislature, which can add its own kicks.


Special Sunday Report: Looking Back After Thinking It Over

I didn’t write anything this past week about the happening in D.C. There was a surfeit of writers on the topic, and I wanted to let my own thoughts marinate for a while in my brain juices before I committed them to the public domain.

Yes, it was a stain on our impression of ourselves as a shining light at the top of the hill. Yes, there are questions to be answered: why were the Capitol police so easily defeated? Why did the Army Secretary delay all day about sending in troops, and then only let them assemble on a street far from the Capitol and without any riot vehicles? If this had been a mainly Black insurrection, would there have been lots of gunfire, busted bones and mass arrests by militarized police as in Portland and Seattle?

But our democracy did survive. Congress resumed its session, counted Electoral College ballots and declared Joe Biden the winner by more than 7 million votes.

We’re not perfect. Never have been. I was reading a story about another American insurrection incident. That was the Battle of Canal Street in New Orleans, a 1874 attempt by 5,000 members of the White League — a white, anti-Reconstruction, paramilitary group trying to take over the Republican state government of Louisiana. They attacked and overpowered the police, then the capital, and were only repelled three days later by federal troops.  Seven police were killed. Four of the rioters, and one journalist. Not one of the insurgents was ever prosecuted.

The 1874 armed insurrection in New Orleans’ Canal Street district

The recent D.C. event should cause us to put on our thinking caps. How well have we governed ourselves? How just are we?

Other countries do see us as a violent people because of our gun culture of open-and-concealed carry and the daily shootings of several dozen people in Chicago. We have not much questioned constantly sending our military forces into other countries: Panama, Grenada, Libya, Haiti. We basically militarily occupied South Vietnam and called all the shots of that country’s militarized government.

We criticize China’s treatment of its Uighur minority but refuse to recognize institutional racism at home. We are buddies with the hand-me-down dictatorship in Saudia Arabia, but won’t work with Cuba because it has a communist government, which is no threat to our national security. We also deplore the crackdown on Hong Kong’s citizens while we bless Israel to suppress the Palestinians who were kicked out of their homeland.

We ignored Josef Stalin murdering his people by the burial pitful so long as he was our ally against Nazi Germany in WWII.

We have great inequality of access to necessities of life in this nation. We’re really in no position to criticize that in Venezuela or Brazil.

Maybe D.C., as painful as it was, will be some sort of wake-up call that The People’s Government in that Capitol Building needs to do a much better job of uplifting our own version of what Argentina’s Eva Peron called the “descamisados” — the shirtless ones, the poor, the disenfranchised; those who feel looked down upon by an increasingly elite American upper class with high education and fat bank accounts. A friend said to me last night: “We could pick members of Congress by a lottery rather than an election and we couldn’t be any worse off than we are.”

I am not about hating America. And I have no sympathy for that D.C. gang. That was dumb and disgraceful and made no friends in or outside the U.S.

But let’s not ignore the deep-down distrust, unhappiness  and antipathy that unleashed that thoughtless fury.

Hitler harnessed it, starting in 1933. Castro harnessed it in 1957. Kim is doing it now. So are the drug cartels in Mexico, who depend on popular dislike of corrupt police and incompetent political leaders. Trump did it, too, in 2020, drawing 74 million votes —  11 million more than in 2016.

I hope the new Administration and the coming 117th Congress recognize that there’s an unmistakeable signal that 2021 cannot be just another year of partisan bickering, campaign slush funds, meaningless speeches and exotic White House dinners while families from closed coal and steel and railroad and Rust Belt towns don’t go to a doctor or dentist because they can’t pay the bills.


This Is NOT The Time For A First-Responder Strike

All employees are entitled by federal law to organize as union members and press for better wages, benefits and working conditions. The employers generally push back. Most of the time, some accommodation is reached. When it isn’t, there likely will be a strike.

The nurses at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children say they have not been able to reach an accommodation with Pacific Health, the operator of that hospital.

But can those nurses justify striking in the middle of a pandemic that has recently thrust Hawaii into the ranks of states with some alarming infection numbers? Pacific Health says the nurses currently average $124,000 a year in salary alone. Another $40,000 in benefits such as medical coverage. That’s a pretty damn good salary and the company is offering another 5% over 3 years.

There are other issues touching on working conditions in these difficult days. Nurses are on the front lines of exposure to the virus. We should all appreciate that and applaud their professionalism. But a strike? Now? Unthinkable and certainly not something that will generate much public sympathy.

Back to the bargaining table, please!

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This photo below is of Tineimalo Adams, a leader of the Halawa Prison gang United Samoan Organization, with tentacles that reach deep into the outside community.. Finally tagged by the FBI Honolulu Office as leader of a large gang  doing drug trafficking,  beatings, in-prison assaults and even from-prison tax fraud. He was sentenced to 17 years at Halawa, where he has run his gang as if he was on the outside.

The feds say say the gang has grown to at least 1,000 members.

One of my regular Manoa column readers asked me how the Michael Miske gang operated so long with alleged drug trafficking, robberies, and murder. He’s right. It operated with seeming immunity for years before the FBI moved in and we got indictments for drug trafficking, tax fraud and bribery.

When I recently suggested that it seems somebody might have been “on the take” to allow the Miske gang to operate so long, new Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s chief of staff, Michael Formby, wrote the Ian Lind blog that my suggestion was “not helpful.”

So maybe he’d also say that  me pointing out that HPD and and state investigators allowing USO, the violent Samoan gang in prison and outside, to work so long without a peep until the feds intervened also is “not helpful.”  It would be “very helpful” if HPD had a better record of gang dismantling.

Check out the USO, Alema Leota and Nappy Pulawa sagas. These aren’t New York. These are us.


My 58 years of reporting and writing here informs me that in those 60s and 70s we turned a blind eye to what was happening with Alema Leota’s Samoan Gang, Earl Kim’s Koreans, and Pulawa and others of Hawaiian heritage. Miske and USO don’t give me any renewed confidence that HPD’s criminal intelligence unit has been doing much beyond helping the former chief convict a relative, fraudulently, of mailbox theft. And they even botched that one!


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