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Hawaii Updates: Fourth Death, Cases Climb To 351; Visitors Continue To Arrive; No Airport Closure

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Gov. David Ige holds a press conference on Facebook Live on Friday, April 3, 2020.

Updated: 4/4/2020, 1:14 p.m.


An East Oahu man over 65 years old is the fourth person in Hawaii to die from the coronavirus, state health officials said today. The confirmed and presumed positive coronavirus cases now number 351, up by 32 from yesterday and including two minors. 

The fourth death was an adult over 65 years old who passed away this morning, the health department said in its daily update. The man may have been exposed to someone who traveled and had been hospitalized, the health department said. (The state had earlier said the man himself had traveled.)

As of Feb. 28, Oahu has seen 266 cases, Maui County 38, Hawaii Island County 22 and Kauai County 15. Eight are pending investigation and two were diagnosed out of state.

A third coronavirus-related death in Hawai?i was reported yesterday. The man was University of Hawaii botany professor Art Whistler, UH President David Lassner said in a message to university faculty and staff.

He was known for his work in Hawaii and throughout the Pacific islands. "He was a scientist, naturalist and educator who touched the lives of students, colleagues and communities throughout the Pacific," Lassner said.

Whistler appears to have been infected on a trip to Washington state and was hospitalized after his return. His death is the first for the university.

Yesterday, Health Director Bruce Anderson said the death was a reminder of the virulent and contagious nature of COVID-19.

“You should act as though you have COVID-19 and everyone around you does, too,” said Anderson.

Earlier this week, the state announced the state's second death. Anderson said officials are still investigating the details of the individual who died.

Anderson said what the state knows is that she was an adult female living on O?ahu. She became critically ill and was hospitalized at the Queen’s Medical Center in West O?ahu, he said.

She was then transferred to Queen’s in Honolulu, where she died over the weekend.

Anderson said the health department is trying to track down family members and the woman’s travel history.

"We don?t know where she might have been exposed or her travel history. We?re hoping some of the people she lived with might be able to tell us a little more about where she was. Apparently she had an international passport and that?s about all we know about her at this time," he said.

Hawaii’s first coronavirus death was an elderly O?ahu man who had recently traveled to Las Vegas and may have been exposed to the virus there.

Visitors still arriving in the islands

Ninety-four visitors arrived yesterday, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported today, despite the second week of a mandatory 14-day quarantine on all arrivals.

The visitors were among 628 arrivals, who included 239 residents, 155 crew members, 71 transiting travelers and 69 intended residents, such as returning students.  

The tourists arrived on 22 flights in Kona (2), Maui (11), Oahu (79) and Lihue (2). They are required to go straight to their lodgings and remain inside for 14 days or the length of their stay, if shorter.

Ige rejects mayors' call to bar nonessential travel

Gov. David Ige will not be ordering the closing of airports in the state. Ige made that announcement yesterday during a press conference.

This week, mayors of the City and County of Honolulu, Kauai and Maui signed a letter to President Trump asking that he stop non-essential travel to the state.

The White House then told the mayors that the governor would need to make that request before the president would take any action.

Ige said he spoke with the Federal Aviation Administration – and other federal officials and was told passengers can’t be stopped from boarding airplanes to Hawaii.

Ige says his 14-day quarantine order is the best way to deter visitors.

"We’ve had extensive discussions with the FAA, and they made it clear that to shut down an airport is not possible. We’ve explored different options," he said.

"Airlines cannot discriminate in who gets on an airplane. There are other administrative and other logistical challenges with directing only essential employees to be able to travel to Hawaii."

As of yesterday, three people had been arrested for breaking the order to quarantine for 14 days on arriving in the islands.

— HPR's Casey Harlow

Kauai police arrest third man In quarantine violation case

A man was arrested yesterday for violating the state's 14-day quarantine order, according to Kauai police. He is the third man taken into custody in connection with the emergency order issued in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Police say Bobby Edwards, 31, of Boynton, Florida, arrived on Kauai from Honolulu yesterday on a Hawaiian Airlines flight. He was unable to show acceptable proof of lodging to Lihue airport personnel, according to a preliminary police report.

After told he would need to show proof of accommodations, he refused, police said. 

According to police, Edwards acted belligerently and showed signifiant signs of intoxication. He was arrested and faces crimiinal charges on violating the emergency order and disorderly conduct.

As of yesterday afternoon, he was being held in the Kauai police cellblock.

"Once he's released from custody, he will be required to either quarantine in proper accommodations, leave the island or face arrest for subsequent offense under the Governor's order," the police said in a news release.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


Editor's note: We’d like to hear how you’re coping with the latest developments in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus. You can call our talkback line at 808-792-8217. Or e-mail us at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.

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