Hawaii Updates: Second Death, First Molokai Case; Cases At 285; Mayor: Wear Masks; Screenings Set
Updated: 4/2/20, 5:52 p.m.
A second death in Hawaii due to the coronavirus has been reported, according to the governor's office. Hawaii's coronavirus case count jumped today to 285, according to the state health department's latest update. The number of positive and presumptive positive cases represents an increase of 27 from yesterday. Oahu now has a total of 206 coronavirus cases, Maui 27, Kauai 12 and the Big Island 18.
Twenty cases are pending county of diagnosis or residency and two residents were diagnosed out of state. Fifteen of the total cases have required hospitalization.
"Today, our community received the tragic news of the passing of a second Hawai‘i resident from the COVID-19 virus. Dawn and I express our deepest condolences to the victim’s family and friends," Gov. David Ige said in a news release. There were no other details disclosed on the death.
Earlier this week, the Hawaii Department of Health said a person who died was diagnosed with coronavirus, the first local fatality related to COVID-19. The Oahu man was described as elderly with underlying medical conditions.
Health Director Bruce Anderson said the death was consistent with coronavirus and that the man had traveled to Las Vegas, among the cities with high rates of infection.
Among the new cases this week was a child.
Maui County also said it has been notified that a Molokai resident has tested positive. The adult male may have contracted COVID-19 while traveling and is currently hospitalized on Oahu. The county said the state Department of Health is investigating the case and any close contacts the man may have had.
The Honolulu Fire Department confirmed today two firefighters at the Kalihi Uka station tested positive for the coronavirus (see more details below).
The University of Hawaii also announced one UH Maui employee and a graduate student at Manoa tested positive. The employee was on campus briefly on March 30 and practiced social distancing with a handful of workers that he came into contact with and did not have contact with any students.
The graduate student was last on campus on Saturday, March 14, the weekend of the start of the spring break.
Hawaii is seeing more COVID-19 cases of community spread and fewer that are travel-connnected as the restrictions on domestic and international visitors to the islands entered its second week.
Anderson said yesterday that health officials expected the coronavirus case numbers to go up for a while before they begin declining. Anderson said officials are looking at a number of models to project when cases will peak and that they range from a few weeks to a few months.
He said Hawaii is early on in the course of epidemic and "I expect it will get worse before it gets better." Hawaii can expect more deaths because the state has an older population, he added.
Anderson said he's comfortable saying the state has not seen widespread community transmission, but added social distancing orders need to be followed.
Firefighter who tested positive worked while asymptomatic
Honolulu Fire Captain Manuel Neves said today about a dozen firefighters have been tested and confirmed two have tested positive, both at the Kalihi Uka station.
The fire chief said the station has been sanitized and that all 43 fire stations will eventually be cleaned. The city's infectious disease control officer, Dr. Jill Omori, said the first firefighter had returned from vacation and had gone into work while asymptomatic, likely exposing other firefighters. It was probably about 24 to 48 hours before he became symptomatic, she said.
"It is a very close quarters, and basically they all live together," she said of the firefighters.life at the stations.
The department had earlier said in a press release that the firefighter had not returned to work. Neves said he did not know why the release had said that.
Omori said the other firefighters in the station who are not showing symptoms have not been tested. While someone is not showing symptoms there is not enough of a "viral load" for an accurate reading, she said, so the city is now only testing those who are symptomatic.
Mayor strongly recommends wearing cloth masks
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell called on residents to wear a cloth mask when going out, noting that people can be asymptomatic and still be contagious.
"You have COVID-19 and you don't even know it," the mayor said, calling his request a strong recommendation. He said surgical and N-95 masks should be reserved for first responders and health care professionals.
Dr. Darragh O'Carroll with Kuakini Medical Center said people should wear cloth masks and wash and sanitize them daily. He demonstrated in Caldwell's Facebook Live video how to put them on and off, washing hands before and after.
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Caldwell noted the state's second coronavirus death and again implored residents to abide by the stay-at-home/work-from-home orders.
The mayor also said that the White House responded to his letter calling for a stop to all nonessential travel on commercial flights to the islands, saying federal officials would like to hear from the governor.
Gov. David Ige said yesterday he was reviewing the matter. All mayors except the Big Island's Harry Kim had signed the letter. Kim said he did not think it was in the best interest of his island.
Special master appointed in inmate release case
Retired Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Daniel Foley has been appointed to handle petitions from the state public defender to release hundreds of inmates amid concerns about overcrowding during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state Supreme Court assigned Foley as special master to work with the parties to address the issues raised in the petitions, and recommend a resolution while at the same time protecting the public health and safety.
State and local officials have objected or voiced concerns about any release of inmates, with Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell suggesting such a move would place a burden on first responders during an already stressful time. He said he asked state Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald in a letter to include the police chiefs of each county in discussions about letting out the inmates.
Foley served on the Intermediate Court of Appeals from 2000 to 2016 before retiring. During his time as a judge on the appellate court, he handled appeals from Hawaii circuit, district, and family courts, and administrative agencies.
ACLU of Hawaii supported the public defender's petitions and called for a special master.
"“Public health experts across the United States agree that during this COVID-19 crisis overcrowded jails and prisons pose a great health risk to not only the people incarcerated but also to correctional staff, their families, and the community at large," said Mateo Caballero, the group's legal director, in a news release.
On Wednesday, Gov. David Ige said any release of inmates should be decided on a case-by-case basis.
When would alternate medical hospitals be built?
The state has been surveying places like the Hawaii Convention Center as possible emergency medical sites to prepare for a spike in coronavirus cases. But it isn’t clear when these facilities would be constructed.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began evaluating alternative care sites across the state last week.
The Army Corps teams looked at locations like the convention center, the Neal S. Blaisdell Center on Oahu and other sites on the Neighbor Islands, including hotels.
The evaluations will determine the amount of work it would take to convert a location into a hospital site and what the cost might be.
But while the numbers of coronavirus cases are growing, Gov. David Ige says it isn’t time to start building yet because hospitals have been coping so far.
"At this point in time, the utilization have been below those areas that would require us to initiate alternative care sites," he said at a press conference yesterday. "But we constantly are monitoring what the utilization is and we would be looking at establishing these alternative care sites as we approach the capacity."
According to the state’s health planning and development agency, Hawaii’s hospitals run at an occupancy rate of about 65 percent, its most recent data from 2018 and before the influx of coronavirus patients.
At least two studies, one from the University of Washington and one from Harvard Global Health Institute, say Hawaii will not have enough hospital beds if there is a surge of coronavirus patients.
Still, Ige says the state doesn't have an exact threshold for hospitals to exceed before the building of alternative care sites would be triggered.
"We definitely are looking at what the lead time would be to convert a site," he said. The state has a wide range of options, he said. Tent facilities could be constructed in a few days while modifying a hotel to be used as a hospital would take more time.
— HPR's Ashley Mizuo
More drive-through screenings at Waipi'o and Kaka'ako this weekend
The city and Premier Medical Group Hawaii are again sponsoring drive-through screenings this weekend. Only those with upper respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath are eligible for the screening.
On Saturday, April 4, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. screening is scheduled at the Waipi'o Peninsula Soccer Complex at 93-061 Waipi'o Point Access Road in Waipahu off Farrington Highway. Follow the signs posted on Waipi'o Point Access Road to the Soccer Complex.
On Sunday, April 5, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. screening at Kaka'ako Waterfront Park. Enter Ilalo Street at the corner of Ward Avenue and Ala Moana Boulevard and drive to the initial screening point at Ilalo and Cooke streets.
More information is available by calling Premier Medical Group Hawaii at (808) 304-8816 or (808) 367-6020.
Trouble paying rent? Talk to your landlord
State officials are advising residents who cannot make their rent to talk to their landlords.
That is one piece of advice from the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' Office of Consumer Protection.
The agency is providing guidance to renters and landlords about Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamations, which were issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Certain provisions in the state laws have changed, such as the landlord-tenant code.
Stephen Levins, Office of Consumer Protection executive director, says so long as the proclamation is in effect, and there is no breach in the lease agreement, renters can stay in their units.
"The tenant really needs to have a discussion with the landlord about their situation. If they’re having financial difficulties, talk it over with the landlord, see if they can reach some kind of accommodation," said Levins.
"The other thing that the tenant should do is to inquire as to whether the landlord has a mortgage that’s back by the federal government. Because under the CARES Act, that was just passed by Congress, there’s something in there that basically gives tenants who are renting from landlords who have these kinds of mortgages, a moratorium for evictions until really the end of July."
Levins says landlords can check online if their mortgage is backed by the federal government. Information and resources can be found on the department's website.
— HPR's Casey Harlow
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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