Senators: Some state workers aren’t following COVID guidelines

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Updated: Aug. 19, 2020 at 9:31 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state senate’s COVID-19 committee says the state government isn’t doing enough to make sure that its workers are following mask and social distancing guidelines while on the job.

“It’s almost as though it’s just chaos, that every department is just left to their own,” said state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz. “There’s no consistency.”

The committee is the one that made a surprise visit to the Department of Health on Aug. 7.

Committee members said they’ve heard from state employees who complain that their coworkers aren’t following the guidelines, and that they don’t feel safe.

At least one senator told state Human Resources Development Director Ryker Wada that it was his job to make sure workers are following the governor’s orders.

“You need to order them to do something about it. Not tell them what to do, but to make sure that they are six feet apart,” said Sen. Donna Mercado Kim. “Make sure this is happening.”

Wada replied that he believed that each department should be responsible. Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, agreed.

“”It’s ... each department’s director that’s responsible to ensure that we comply with all guidelines and policy,” said Hara.

Attorney General Clare Connors made an unscheduled appearance before the panel, and her understanding of the rules only added to the confusion.

“We need a point person to be in charge,” Kim told Connors.

“General Hara has testified that he does that. He visited my office and he walked me through...” Connors said before Kim interrupted her.

“He said he’s not doing that,” said Kim. “He says he does that in his office.”

The senators also questioned School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, after hearing from teachers who saying their spending their own money on PPE, despite the department saying schools have three months of equipment stockpiled.

“You said you was ready, but then all the principals and teachers are still saying they’re there and doing virtual teaching, but all of those supplies are not there,” said Sen. Kurt Fevella.

Fevella and other committee members said teachers have been spending their own money to buy the needed supplies.

“The schools that have expended any of their own funds, we’ve been working with HI-EMA on how to get them reimbursed quickly,” Kishimoto responded.l

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