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Hawaii Updates: Record 42 Cases; Mayors Want Aug. 1 Reopening Date Delayed; Chinatown Event Still On

This graph developed by the Hawai?i Pandemic Applied Modeling (HiPAM) work group shows a 14-day forecast of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19. More information on the model can be found at www.hipam.org/forecast."

Updated: 7/11/2020, 3:24 p.m.

Where we stand

The state Department of Health today reported another daily record for the state -- 42 new COVID-19 cases, the most confirmed in a single day since the outbreak began. This follows yesterday's 28 cases, Thursday's 36 cases and Tuesday's 41 infections. Of today's new cases, 38 are on Oahu, 2 on Hawaii Island and 2 on Maui.

Officials are tracking three separate clusters at the Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe as well as "sporadic cases" that the state's Joint Information Center said today more likely reflect community spread occurring on the Windward side. 

To date, 12 cases have been confirmed. As a precaution, the state tested at least 46 potential contacts with those infected in the clusters and all proved negative. 

Health officials said yesterday there have been 17 cases involving two Oahu gyms. State Epidemiologist Sarah Park told Hawaii News Now the outbreaks were linked to one infected person participating in exercise class at one gym and someone infected from that class went on to another class at the other gym.

Park said gyms that operate with poor ventilation and without social distancing can be breeding grounds for infections, including the coronavirus.

"It is imperative that all gyms follow the safe practices required by state and county governments," Park said. Health Director Bruce Anderson added that COVID-19 is spread person-to-person by aerosols and droplets when people breathe, cough and sneeze. 

"Perhaps most important is to stay home if you are feeling ill. Don't try to sweat it out," he said.

The state's total coronavirus case count now stands at 1,200 with 19 deaths. Oahu has 905 cases, 

Maui County has 133, Hawaii County has 100 and Kauai County has 43. Nineteen residents have been diagnosed outside of the state. One hundred twenty-five people have required hospitalization and 872 people have been released from isolation.

Mayors united on pushing back reopening, question is when

All four county mayors say they want the state to hold off on easing travel restrictions for out-of-state arrivals starting Aug. 1. Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim has gone further, calling for a full review of the reopening plans for the University of Hawaii and public schools as well as the policy that currently allows interisland travel without a quarantine.

The state plans to allow trans-Pacific travelers to avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine next month if they can show they tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their flight to Hawaii.

But the program is now under review as the number of coronavirus cases spikes in Hawaii and surges on the Mainland.

Further, because of the high demand for testing in other states, there is now a shortage of key components for the COVID-19 tests used by the state's largest lab, Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc. The lab has sharply reduced the number of tests it can run as a result.

Ige issued a statement yesterday saying he and the mayors have held productive meetings this week and are still evaluating the reopening plan. The state will make an announcement, he said, "when we are satisfied that the plans will protect the health and safety of our residents and guests."

The mayors have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the Aug. 1 date as the number of infections grows in the state, particularly on Oahu, and across the country. 

Honolulu Mayor Caldwell said Thursday that he thinks it's not safe to reopen now. He called any decision to reset the Aug. 1 date "difficult" because there are many unknowns, such as what major tourism markets like California will be experiencing in a few weeks. 

During a video press conference yesterday, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said most of the mayors are looking at a later date to reopen to visitors taking a pre-flight test. He said conditions could change, but he added: "I'm gonna give you my best guesstimation -- September 1st," he said. 

Hawaii County's Harry Kim may be the most conservative among the mayors in face of the growing infection rates. He told KHON on Wednesday that he wants a pause and review of all reopening plans -- including that of UH and the schools. Kim also called for reevaluation of the current policy that allows mainly residents to travel between the islands without having to quarantine.

He noted that the most recent Hawaii Island cases have involved travel, including interisland travel. While the state and the county are still in a good position given their relatively low COVID-19 numbers, Kim said the record 41 cases set by the state on Tuesday is a wakeup call.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami also told the station Thursday that with the uptick in cases and decline in local testing capacity, the state should not be look at reopening Aug. 1.

He said Kauai would not be ready if there is a surge as seen in other parts of the country. He said Kauai proposed a modified quarantine, such as having tourists staying in resorts with run of the property. 

What officials are trying to avoid is another stay-at-home order, Kawakami said. But much depends on  residents taking personal responsibility and complying with safety neasures like social distancing and handwashing. 

City's 'Dine in Chinatown' event to continue despite COVID concerns

A part of Hotel Street will be closed from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight for the "Dine in Chinatown" event.

Hotel from River Street to Richards Street will be closed to vehicles but people can walk, bike and otherwise cruise along one of the main roads through Chinatown.

The event is part of the city's Open Street program that includes the partial closure of Kalakaua in Waikiki on Sundays through July.

The popular event has raised concerns in the wake of a spike in COVID-19 cases on Oahu. Mayor Kirk Caldwell said health measures are being imposed and the events are outside, making them safer.

Both the Chinatown and Kalakaua events are part of a broader effort to boost businesses in those areas, which have been devastated by the impact of the coronavirus.

Tourists continue to come to Hawaii despite quarantine

The mandatory 14-day quarantine remains in effect through at least July for all trans-Pacific travelers arriving in the islands.

Although visitors must quarantine in their lodging for 14 days after arrival or risk fines of up to $5,000, the number of arrivals has been edging up.

On Thursday, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported 2,668 people arrived at state airports, including 732 visitors, 858 returning residents, 232 transiting travelers, 269 crew members, 241 military, 141 travelers exempt from quarantine, and 195 people who say they are relocating to the islands.

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 talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.

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