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Hawaii Updates: 15 New Cases; Green: Awaiting Visitor Pre-Testing OK; In-Person Summer Classes Start

AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy
A surfer walks on a sparsely populated Waikiki beach on June 5, 2020.

Updated: 6/12/2020, 5:18 p.m. The state reported a sharp spike in cases of COVID-19 today, with 15 new infections, according to the Hawaii Department of Health. Gov. David Ige said the increase was expected as the state reopens businesses and activities in phases.

"Just want to asssure everyone that it is a manageable number that we have prepared for," he said during an online press conference Friday. He said the number of cases will gradually increase with the easing of restrictions and hospital officials have been monitoring the activity. Hospital utilization is low enough that the state feels it can comfortably deal with the higher numbers of cases.

Ige also said unlike some other states, the longterm care industry in Hawaii has kept the number of cases down, with only one Maui patient reported positive with the virus, apart from several employees who have contracted the virus.

On Thursday, Hawaii saw 7 new cases, prompting Lt. Gov. Josh Green to say they were part of a Memorial Day bump that came after the holiday gatherings. He also said the local Black Lives Matter demonstrations were peaceful, but people were together.

"So we're going to see those numbers kinda be up more than usual," Green said on his Instagram page. He said the new cases were likely those who came into contact with asymptomatic people.

But Health Director Bruce Anderson said Friday at the governor's press conference that the department has no evidence that any of the recent cases were the result of Memorial Day or BLM crowds.

He said 10 of Friday's 15 new cases came from one household where there was one previously infected adult. Those infected have been placed in quarantine, he said. 

All of the new cases -- 6 children and 9 adults -- are on Oahu. After updated testing information, the revised number of COVID-19 cases statewide was set at 706. The number of deaths remains at 17.

The case count for Oahu is now at 472, Maui County at 120, Hawaii County at 81 and Kauai County at 21. Some 627 people have been released from isolation.

Anderson said the state has been conducting outreach on Oahu in low-income parts of Kalihi, Palolo, and Waipahu to follow up on cases and provide education about the virus.

Green said when Hawaii opens up to travel to the Mainland, officials have to be mindful of the recent surge in positive cases in states such as California, Arizona, Utah, South Carolina and Texas.

He said Hawaii will have testing in advance and "it will be very well done." According to Green, the state will partner with CVS as part of a large alliance and he's hoping for approval soon.

In a research paper issued earlier this month, University of Hawaii and East-West Center researchers said pre-departure symptom screening together with COVID-19 testing of tourists could eliminate 80 to 90 percent of infectious passengers.

Symptom screening alone, they said, would introduce 750 additional coronavirus cases into Hawaii based on 6,000 daily visitors.

Officials urged residents to continue taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including using frequent handwashing, face masks and practicing social distancing.

--HPR News Staff

Students meeting in-person in summer school

Hawaii's public schools began summer classes this week and some are being held in-person.

The classes are the first face-to-face classes since students went on break in March and stayed out because of COVID-19.

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole Elementary and Intermediate is holding in-person classes for kindergarten to 8th grade.

The summer classes are small -- seven to eight children in each, with one teacher.

"It was really fun to see all of them and just see the excitement on their faces and just being able to talk to each other face to face, right? -- And just be with each other," said Vice Principal Lindsay Miyashiro.

Yesterday's Hawaii Updates: 7 New Cases; Quarantine Extended; State Plans Airport Face Recognition Technology

"And they're really good about wearing their masks, washing their hands, doing all the things that we asked them. This is going to be kind of the new norm, you know, when we come back to school, or getting them into that routine, and they were great about it. And they were just excited to be in school and the teachers were excited to see them. It was a really great day."
Desks are spread 3 feet apart, adhering to the state department of education’s guidelines. And students are required to wear masks inside the classroom.

The in-person classes help students of highest need, those who may have fallen behind during the last few months.

DOE says schools will reopen for the fall on August 4th, although it’s still unclear what that will mean for in-person instruction.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo
Iolani Palace set to reopen next week


Tours at the historic Iolani Palace will resume on June 19, with modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The first phase of the reopening will feature self-guided audio tours on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tours must be booked in advance online at www.IolaniPalace.org or by calling 808-522-0832.


Guests will have their temperature checked prior to picking up tickets at the Barracks building. Face masks are required throughout the palace.


Tour group sizes and the total number of guests in the palace, gift shop and Basement Galleries will be limited.


Social distancing markers and directional arrows will direct traffic in the palace, Barracks and Basement Galleries.


There will also be increased cleaning of high-touch and high-traffic areas, including hand railings, chairs, and restrooms. 


Iolani Palace is offering a special discount to kama‘aina and active military. Tickets are $11.95 for adults and $4.95 for children ages 5 to 12. Keiki 4 years and under are free. Guests will also receive 10 percent off purchases in the palace gift shop.


--HPR News Staff


TB clearance for child care, school and food handlers reinstated


The state Health Department has reinstated the requirements for tuberculosis clearances and has resumed issuing them. They had been waived temporarily through May 31 as part of the COVID-19 mitigation efforts.


Effective this month, the department has resumed issuing clearances for child care providers, schools, post-secondary institutions and food handlers. Phone and email clearance may be available for those who are eligible. 


For those who still need walk-in services, the department has implemented social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Walk-in services are still available at the Lanakila Health Center TB Clinic, 1700 Lanakila Ave. Call (808) 832-5733 for information.


Public health nursing offices no longer provide walk-service for TB clearances.


Those needing TB clearances can also call their nearest DOH office to see if they qualify for a phone clearance or to make an appointment for services. Calls are taken from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, except for holidays.


TB clearance by email can also be sought by sending a request to DOH.tbclearance@doh.hawaii.gov. More information is available on the health department's website.


--HPR's News Staff


O'ahu homeless numbers essentially unchanged 


The 2020 Point In Time Count that collects information on the homeless during one night on Oahu found their numbers did not drastically change over the past year.


The count, conducted on Jan. 22 of this year, found 4,448 people experiencing homelessness, an increase of 0.7 percent over 2019.


Partners in Care, which coordinates the count, said a new methodology was used this year. A digital application and an observation tool allowed people to be surveyed without disturbing them, allowing the count to be completed in a day compared to several days in previous years.


Of the total number of homeless people, 47 percent were sheltered and 53 percent were unsheltered. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders made up 31 percent of the population counted and multiracial individuals made up 25 percent.


While over half of those counted were single adults, 27 percent were adults with children. Still, families with children experiencing homelessness has dropped by 43 percent in the past 5 years.


--HPR News Staff



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 COVID-19 developments and the state's phased reopening. You can call our talkback line at 808-792-8217. Or e-mail us at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.

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