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The Latest: 207 Cases; 9 First-Responders COVID-19 Positive; Lag In Tests Impacting Contact Tracing

Via Hawaii Department of Health
The state Department of Health says this photo provided by a group tracking quarantine violators shows a large crowd of young people at a popular Waimea Bay jumping rock Saturday where no one appears to be wearing masks or physically distancing.

Updated: 8/3/2020, 2:02 p.m.

The state Department of Health reported 207 new COVID-19 cases today, but officials said about 114 of the cases are from three previous days. The results were delayed because of lab reporting issues that led to incomplete and inaccurate count of the infections and that impacted contact tracing. 

The state count now stands at 2,448. Out of that total, 2,083 cases are on Oahu, 178 in Maui County, 117 in Hawaii County, and 47 in Kauai County. There have been 23 residents diagnosed outside of the state, 201 people hospitalized and 26 deaths.


Until the lab issues developed, the state had seen a string of days when case counts reached triple-digits. The state saw 123 cases on Friday, a record 124 on Thursday, and 109 on Wednesday.

The rising numbers are a factor in the ongoing debate on rolling back the reopening and delaying the start of public schools, which are now scheduled to resume on Aug. 17.

The latest case counts have been affected by missing data from Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii, a private laboratory conducting most of the tests in the state, the department said.

“We are missing electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) data from one of the private clinical laboratories, from July 31 to today. This is likely a result of recent modifications in data reporting required by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services," said state Epidemiologist Sarah Park.

"We have advised the affected laboratory to provide manual reporting of data until they’re able to correct the reporting issues. This is impacting our ability to quickly identify and investigate new persons with COVID-19 and to contact trace.”  

She said the state will need to update case numbers from Friday on.

On Saturday, the state said there was a significant lag in processing specimens being sent to the Mainland. Tests sent away can take as many as 10 days to return results. Earlier this summer, labs reported they were not able to process all tests locally because of a shortage of reagent chemicals used in the tests. 

State officials condemned a gathering at Waimea Bay on Saturday where a large group gathered at the beach for a rock jumping contest. A photo of the crowd, most ignoring requirements to social distance and wear face masks, was provided by a group that is tracking quarantine violators.


“It’s disappointing and dangerous to people’s health, for anyone to continue to encourage and actively promote these big groups,” said Park. “Everyone should avoid large gatherings and crowded places and use proven, common-sense, and simple steps to protect our community from COVID-19.”



2nd Honolulu EMS worker, 7 firefighters now positive for COVID-19


A second emergency medial services employee has tested positive for COVID-19 and the Honolulu Fire Department announced yesterday one more firefighter has been infected, bringing the total number of first-responders reporting coronavirus cases in recent days to nine.


The worker infected in the latest EMS case is stationed at the Pawaa One station on Kapahulu Avenue. He is in insolation and will return to work when cleared by health officials, the Honolulu Emergency Services Department said in a news release. 


The firefighter whose case was announced yesterday is based at the Kalihi Kai Fire Station and was placed on leave. Other affected station personnel will self-quarantine.


With the latest case, there are five firefighters with the Hawaii Kai Fire Station, one from the Moanalua Fire Station and one from Kalihi Kai who have tested positive in recent days. 


HFD says it is redistributing its personnel to maintain emergency coverage in the areas affected.

On Saturday, the city said a Honolulu emergency medical services worker stationed at the Liliha area station tested positive for COVID-19.

The worker notified his supervisor immediately after told of the postive result. The worker is in isolation and will return to the job once cleared by the state Department of Health.


Employees who came into conact with the two employees are in 14-day quarantines.


The city's emergency medical services division has treated and transported 97 coronavirus patients, the Honolulu Emergency Services Department said in an update yesterday.


“We are fully committed to keeping our personnel and the public safe while continuing to respond to medical calls," said Acting Chief of EMS Chris Sloman. He said EMS units, ambulances and equipment are decontaminated daily, hourly and after each 911 call.


EMS has had challenges over several years with funding and staffing, Sloman said. Losing more staff to the pandemic will "burden the system to a yet unknown extent," he said.


EMS is recalling personnel on overtime, using a back-up contractor if available and designating EMT personnel to staff ambulance units.


Sloman said now more than ever, the public should only call on EMS for life-threatening medical emergencies.


Other COVID-19 cases reported yesterday:


• A University of Hawaii football player tested postive for the virus Saturday. UH said in a media release that the student-athlete was held out of practice and in self-isolation since reporting symptoms last week. Close contacts of the player have been directed to self-quarantine, including those who came into contact with him in his off-campus residence. The start of the UH football camp Monday has been postponed until Tuesday. All 116 athletes tested negative in the first round of testing in late July, according to the university.


• Palolo Chinese Home said a food service worker who had no contact with residents has tested positive for the coronavirus. The employee contracted the disease outside of the skilled nursing and rehabilitation center, according to a PCH news release yesterday. The worker is being quarantined and those who may have had close contact with the employee are being tested.


COVID-19 cases worry both ends of proposed Hawaii-Japan travel corridor


State and Japanese leaders continue to discuss a proposed travel corridor between Hawaii and Japan – and there’s some concern about rising COVID-19 cases -- on both sides.

Hawaii has seen a surge in new coronavirus cases in recent days, alarming state and county officials.

Japan has also experienced an upward trend in cases, including in Tokyo which saw a record 400 cases on Friday.

Hawaii Tourism Japan Managing Director Eric Takahata says both governments are monitoring the infection rates.

"There’s some concern. You know, [the] Japanese government, of course, monitors what’s going on here in Hawaii. And as we do, our Department of Health, knows what’s going on in Japan health-wise," he said.

"But when you look at the infection rate of both Hawaii and Japan – very low. Very, very low, relatively speaking. And, you know, I add that the infection rate, and the death rate as well, for Japan is even lower than Hawaii – our per capita death rate and our infection rates."

Takahata says Oahu’s rising case numbers don’t seem to be threatening the travel proposal. He says tourism between Japan and the state could potentially open as soon as this month.

--HPR's Casey Harlow


Returning Residents Again Exceed 1,000; More Than 988 Visitors Arrive

The Hawaii Tourism Authority says 3,478 people arrived on Saturday, including 1,080 returning residents and 988 visitors. In addition, 392 travelers claimed they are relocating to Hawaii.


The numbers of returning residents and visitors continue to swell despite a mandatory 14-day travel quarantine for all arrivals and surging COVID-19 cases on the Mainland and on Oahu.


Health officials have urged residents not to travel at this time because of the danger that they can bring back the virus to the islands, as some have done.


Others arriving at state airports include 291 crew members, 213 transiting travelers, 327 military members, and 187 travelers exempt from quarantine.
Last year at this time, about 35,000 passengers arrived in Hawaii daily. The state's mandatory 14-day travel quarantine requirement remains in place through Aug. 31.
Major Ward Avenue project begins today

Roadwork on Ward Avenue from Ala Moana Boulevard to South King Street will begin today. 

The months-long work will include road resurfacing, installing bike lanes and changes to parking meters.

Work hours will run on Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except for holidays. 

Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he’s been pushing for the project since he became mayor. While he knows there will be disruptions, he says the work will ultimately help the area.

“With every road paving effort, when we did Beretania, there is business disruption," he said. "But we also know that when it is completed, there is a lot of business joy because the road is smooth, people don’t avoid that street anymore. They enjoy that street and I think that’s going to enhance business when it’s completed.

"And the thing I’m kind of most excited about, some people may not like it, we’re going to have a dedicated bike lane on Ward. And what’s going to be different from other dedicated bike lanes is that there’s going to be bike lanes on both sides of the street, you know, one going mauka to makai and one going makai to mauka. So, people can bike safely.”

Construction is scheduled for completion in early 2021. 

Meanwhile, another road project is happening on Fort Weaver Road. Paving began yesterday and will continue until next Sunday.

--HPR's Amy Nakamura

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.


Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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