State briefs for March 25

Veteran’s remains identified 80 years after Pearl Harbor

BOISE, Idaho — About 80 years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a veteran who died during the attack had his remains identified.

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The remains of William Eugene Blanchard, who was killed at Pearl Harbor while serving on the U.S.S. Oklahoma, were identified through DNA testing conducted by an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense.

Blanchard was 24 when he was aboard the warship, which was struck by multiple torpedoes and capsized.

William Eugene Blanchard’s grandson, Chris Blanchard, said the soldier’s son and another family member provided DNA samples. The Department of Defense was able to identify William Eugene Blanchard’s legs, part of his pelvic bone and most of his skull.

Fewer Hawaii public school grads went to college

HONOLULU — There was a drop in the number of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students who went to college last year after graduating from Hawaii’s public schools.

A report by the Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education shows that 35% of Native Hawaiians in the class of 2020 enrolled in college upon graduation, a decline from 44% for the class of 2019. Figures for Pacific Islander graduates fell to 29% from 35%.

According to the report, Hawaii’s public high schools had a record graduation rate in 2020 but far fewer graduates enrolled in college: 50% of last year’s graduating class went directly to college, down from 55% the previous year.

It was the steepest one-year dip ever recorded.

“The negative effects of the pandemic on educational progress in general are not equal across socioeconomic and demographic groups,” said Stephen Schatz, executive director of Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education. “In particular, economically disadvantaged, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders saw some pretty precipitous declines in the college-going rate for the class of 2020.”

The report comes as the National Student Clearinghouse reported in December that the college-going rate throughout the country at the onset of the pandemic dropped to 28% from 35% in 2019.

Nearly 1,400 COVID vaccines compromised

WAILUKU, Maui — A low-temperature refrigerator holding doses of the Pfizer vaccine at Maui Memorial Medical Center was not closed properly, and the vaccines were compromised during the weekend, leading the hospital to throw out nearly 1,400 does.

Officials at the hospital, operated by Maui Health, said enough supply remains to keep all current vaccination appointments.

Vaccines are locked in a freezer before being transferred to the low-temperature refrigerator to be thawed. The doses were put in the refrigerator Friday in preparation for this week’s vaccinations, and staff members discovered Monday morning that the door was not sealed.

There was a mechanical malfunction, and the mistake was not a staff error, said Maui Health spokeswoman Tracy Dallarda. The door was tested again after the discovery, and it wouldn’t stay closed.

Maui Health said in a statement that Pfizer was contacted and the vials were removed from use and discarded.

The cooling unit will be repaired and vaccines will be stored elsewhere, hospital officials said. When doses need to be thawed in the future, they will go to the hospital’s pharmacy refrigerator where an alarm will notify a 24-hour employee if the temperatures drop, Dallarda added.

A total of 2,400 doses have been lost since Hawaii began vaccinations in December, state Department of Health spokesman Brooks Baehr said. That includes the 1,386 doses during the weekend and 1,014 doses in other separate incidents.

Senators reverse course on support for Biden picks

WASHINGTON — Two Democratic senators who said they would not support President Joe Biden’s nominations to fill administration posts until the White House better promoted diversity reversed their stances Tuesday after the White House said it would add an Asian American Pacific Islander liaison to its staff.

Sens. Tammy of Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii lashed out earlier in the day at the lack of Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in Biden’s Cabinet. The only senators of Asian American heritage, they said they would withhold their support for his nominees until the diversity issue was addressed.

With the announcement of the liaison Tuesday night, Duckworth’s spokesman said the senator would not stand in the way of “qualified nominees — which will include more AAPI leaders.”

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Hirono later said in a statement of her own that she too welcomed the appointment of an AAPI White House liaison and was dropping her objections.

“Based on the private conversation we had, I will continue voting to confirm the historic and highly qualified nominees President Biden has appointed to serve in his administration,” Hirono said.

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