Hawaii County mayor declares state of emergency over dengue fever outbreak

Honaunau

Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi has declared a state of emergency on Hawaii Island in light of an ongoing dengue fever outbreak.

Click here to view the proclamation in its entirety.

As of Monday, Feb. 8, the state Department of Health says a total of 251 cases of locally acquired dengue fever have been confirmed on Hawaii Island since Sept. 11, 2015.

View the latest dengue fever count here.

Under the proclamation, the following county law is suspended “to effectively control and eliminate the dengue fever virus on Hawaii Island”: a. Hawaii County Code Section 20-46(b) insofar as it prohibits the acceptance of tires at County landfills.

Article 4. Solid Waste Fees.
Section 20-46. Disposal fees.
(b) In addition to the per ton charge or volume charge, items which cannot be disposed in the working face of the landfill in accordance with usual disposal practices or which require special handling and/or arrangements by landfill personnel shall be assessed a special handling charge at rates as set forth herein. Such items shall include but may not be limited to asbestos and confidential document destruction or other disposal requiring a witness. Tires, whether whole, cut, sliced, chipped or shredded, will not be accepted at any County landfill. All wire or cable must be cut to four-foot lengths prior to disposal at any County landfill or transfer station.

The emergency period is in effect for 60 days or until further action is taken by Kenoi’s office.

Emergency officials say the proclamation will help if there’s a spike in the number of dengue fever cases.

“We have the resources on island for the current response, but if things need to be ramped up, we definitely want to have the mechanisms in place, like I said, to acquire the resources if need be,” said Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira.

“There’s now Zika to be concerned about, that’s one reason, and two, just because it’s been dwindling, it could require a lot more vector control,” said Sen. Josh Green, D, Kona, Kau.

Green was one of the Hawaii Island lawmakers urging the county to declare a state of emergency two months ago.

“Why didn’t they do it two months ago?” KHON2 asked.

“I think there was a fair amount of pride. That was a concern many of us share. I think there was some hope that it would teeter out before it got to several hundred cases,” Green said.

Emergency officials hope this latest move does not discourage people from visiting the island.

“What we hope the message to visitors would receive and experience when they arrive here is that Hawaii Island is still an excellent, safe, enjoyable tourist destination. We are open for business,” Oliveira said.

Some lawmakers hope Gov. David Ige declares an emergency on the state level.

The governor released a statement Monday in support of Kenoi’s decision and said the state will issue an emergency proclamation if and when conditions meet the following criteria:

  • The dengue outbreak requires additional resources beyond current levels,
  • The dengue outbreak has spread to other islands,
  • The outbreak has expanded to include Zika and other vector borne diseases,
  • It is necessary to waive certain laws and regulations,
  • The state determines it will need federal assistance.

“At this time, the state is working to release the state health department’s five-percent budget restriction ($250,000) to fund eight vector control positions, one entomologist and one communications position,” he said in his statement. “The state previously released another five percent ($250,000) restriction so the department could fund costs incurred while responding to the onset of the dengue outbreak.”

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