Hawaii Updates: 1 More Death, 29 New Cases; Ahead Of Holiday, City Mandates Masks While Inside
Updated: 7/3/2020, 2:43 p.m.
State health officials today reported another COVID-19 death and 29 new cases in the sharpest increase Hawaii has seen in months. The numbers bring the total death count to 19 and coronavirus cases to 975.
The latest death was an elderly Oahu woman with underlying health conditions, the state said.
“Every COVID-19 death is an emotional reminder of the need for all of us to be vigilant and wear a face covering when outside our homes, physically distance ourselves from others and wash hands frequently,” said Gov. David Ige said in a news release. “It’s about protecting each other and allowing the state to reopen safely. We all have a stake in this and now is the most critical time to wear a mask.”
The new cases come as the officials urge extra precaution during the July 4th holiday weekend and follows news that eight Hawaiian Airlines employees tested positive for COVID-19. One cluster of cases monitored by the department involves people gathering and sharing food at a potluck.
Hawaiian Airlines said in a statement that the eight employees had recently attended flight attendant training at the company's Honolulu headquarters. They tested positive this week after feeling ill.
"We are supporting our team members in their recovery, helping contact anyone who may have been at risk of exposure, and reinforcing our office protocols to keep our employees safe," said Hawaiian spokesman Alex De Silva by email yesterday. "Out of an abundance of caution, we have cancelled our flight attendant training for the next two weeks in order to deep clean our facilities."
The instructors have been tested and about 60 employees who had undergone training in the past week were asked to self-quarantine and monitor their health.
Of today's 29 new cases, 25 are on Oahu, 2 on Maui, 1 on Hawaii Island, and 1 is out of state. At least 5 of the cases are from three new events and may be possible clusters. The locations of the Oahu cases are far-flung and include: Honolulu, Kailua, Mililani, Pearl City, Wahiawa, Waialua, Waianae, Kaneohe, Waimanalo and Waipahu.
Oahu's case count now stands at 701, Maui County's at 127, Hawaii County's at 91 and Kauai County's at 38. A total of 18 residents were diagnosed outside of Hawaii.
Of the total cases, 118 have required hospitalization. The number includes Hawaii residents who were hospitalized out of state. Some 754 people have been released from isolation.
“During this long 4th of July holiday weekend, many people will be celebrating with family and friends. As we do so, we all need to remember to keep protecting our community by maintaining safe practices. We should wear our masks and stay six feet from others outside our household or those we don’t normally see and interact with every day," said state Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park.
Park said Hawaii has kept COVID-19 case numbers manageable because the community has followed infection prevention measures. She urged residents to keep up those efforts.
The department further advised people to "avoid the 3 Cs" -- closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places and close-contact settings such as close-range conversations.
Correction: The state health department has corrected its information about the latest coronavirus death. It is a woman, not a man, as noted in a previous version of this story.
City mandating face coverings indoors, and outdoors in some cases
Face masks are now a requirement indoors on the island of Oahu—and in certain cases outdoors as well.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell held an afternoon news conference yesterday saying that Gov. David Ige has approved the latest amendment to his emergency order.
“That amendment now mandates that when you’re indoors---whether you’re in a private office building or a public building, a government building—whether you’re in an enclosed mall—you must wear a face covering—like this—to protect all of us. In addition, when you’re outdoors, where physical distancing is not practical, you cannot practice it, because you’re so close together—the mandate is that you also wear a face covering,” the mayor said.
Caldwell says he wanted to put the face mask order in place before the July 4th holiday weekend. Violation of the order is a misdemeanor—which could result in a warning—or a fine of up to $5,000.
--HPR's Bill Dorman
Scammers continue to attack unemployment system
The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations says it has blocked about $95 million in potentially fraulent unemployment benefit claims and paid out possibly $18 million in erroneous payments under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program as of June 24.
The department said investigations are ongoing into the fradulent payments first reported locally in May. Officials are looking into a nationwide scam attacking several states' unemployment benefit systems.
“Unfortunately, bad actors including organized crime continue to attack the program designed to support our vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” said Deputy Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio in a news release.
“We are working with the U.S. DOL Inspector General and the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General to find those perpetrating fraud and will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” she said.
If residents have received a letter regarding a claim for PUA and they did not apply for benefits, they can follow instructions to report a potential identity theft at pua.hawaii.gov.
State Attorney General Clare Connors told Hawaii News Now last week that she is among the victims of identity thieves who targeted the PUA program.
The department says it can't detect how or when the identify theft may have occurred. Those who suspect that they have been a victim of identity theft should file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov.
Officials say residents can also check if their email has been breached by visiting https://haveibeenpwned.com.
Meanwhile, DLIR reported it paid $1.8 billion in unemployment insurance claims since the COVID-19 pandemic on March 1.
Over 245,519 jobless claims have been filed statewide, 151,542 have been paid and 163,471 of valid claims are still awaiting action by DLIR.
The deputy director noted that benefits are stopped when it appears claimants are filing from outside of Hawaii because of out-of-state IPs (internet protocol addresses) or VPN (Virtual Private Network) software.
Other issues delaying benefits are incorrect deposit information supplied by claimants, lack of weekly certifications filed by claimants and failure to create a username and password in the claimant onine portal.
Answers to frequently asked questions are available on the labor department's website.
Kauai electric utility extending suspension of service disconnections
Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative says it is extending its suspension of service disconnections through July 31 following an order from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.
“Some members continue to face severe financial challenges,” said David Bissell, KIUC’s president and chief executive officer. “We’re working individually with customers who have concerns and will continue to reevaluate the situation as we move forward.”
Suspension of service disconnections apply to residential and commercial customers.
Bill payments have not been waived and past-due amounts will mount if no payments are made, the utility said.
Those with questions about their account can call the Member Services department at 246-4300 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Energy assistance programs are available for qualified members. Information can be found in the COVID-19 section on the KIUC homepage at www.kiuc.coop.
More than 750 visitors land in the islands
On Wednesday, 2,424 people arrived in Hawaii, according to the Hawai’i Tourism Authority. Among those coming to the islands were 754 visitors and 516 returning residents.
Others that arrived in the state include 432 military members, 270 flight crew members, 250 relocating to the state,106 exempt from quarantine and 96 in transit.
This is a developing story. Please check back for upates. 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 email@example.com.