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The Latest: 9 Queen's Workers Positive; 220 New Cases; Positivity Rate Tops WHO Guideline

AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy

Updated: 8/16/2020, 7:58 p.m.

Where we stand

The Hawaii Department of Health reported 220 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the state's total to over 5,000 at 5,042. These include 4,591 on Oahu, 148 on Hawaii Island, 226 in Maui County, and 54 on Kauai. Twenty-three cases were diagnosed out of state. The death toll stands at 40. 

Of the new cases, 202 are on Oahu, 14 in Maui County, and 4 on Hawaii Island. One case each from Honolulu, Maui County and Hawaii Island were removed based on updated information. 

There were 284 cases yesterday and 233 COVID-19 cases Friday, down from Thursday's record 355 cases, but still remaining in the triple-digits. No deaths were reported today by the state.


The number of Oahu Community Correctional Center inmates testing positive has reached 170 along with 30 OCCC staff, the state Department of Public Safety said this afternoon in a news release.


DPS said the department's coronavirus cases now total 204 infections, including 4 cases in facilities other than OCCC. Mass testing is continuing at OCCC and officials expect the numbers to go up. 


As of Aug. 14 based on a 7-day average, the health department reported the rate of positive tests stood at 6.2%. The World Health Organization says before a region can relax restrictions and begin reopening, it should be at or below 5% for 14 days.


Among new cases:

• Nine caregivers at the Queen's Medical Center - Punchbowl have tested positive, the medical center said in a news release today. They are self-quarantining and contact tracing is underway to identify others who may be at risk. The hospital said as the state's largest private employers with more than 7,000 employees, it expected that COVID-19 would be reported in its ranks. Some of those impacted work with COVID patients but the medical center said it does not appear at this time that patients are affected and all of its units are operating. It urged the public to follow guidelines to wear face masks, physically distance and avoid large gatherings, including that of friends and family who may be asymptomatic.

• A Family Court employee at the Honolulu District Court has tested positive for COVID-19, the state judiciary said yesterday. The employee is the fourth case among judiciary employees. Two Oahu Kapolei Family Court employees and a South Kohala District Court worker on Hawaii Island have also tested positive. In the latest case, the worker was last on the job on Thursday and was tested Friday. The positive result was received yesterday. Co-workers who had close and prolonged contact with the. person affected were identifed and directed not to work tomorrow and to contact their. medical providers. The Honolulu District Courthouse will remain open and operations in the affected areas will resume when sanitizing and disinfecting is done. Essential Family Court proceedings in the Honolulu District Court involving defendants held by Honolulu police will be conducted, although court locations may change. Nonessential Family Court hearings may be rescheduled. The latest informatio is available on the judicary's information page.

• YMCA Camp Erdman reported yesterday that a summer camp participant tested positive for COVID-19. The summer day camp was informed Friday. The camp participant was at Camp Erdman from Monday, Aug. 10, through Wednesday, Aug. 12. "We immediately contacted the Department of Health and are awaiting their consult," said Michael Broderick, YMCA of Honolulu president and CEO, in a news release. The YMCA said it is following safety procedures and separating participants who may have been exposed from the rest of the camp. Two staff may also have been exposed. Parents and guardians were notified of the case and informed that the participant traveled on a school bus with others. Families of about 23 of these participants were contacted to pick them up. The camp is being deep cleaned daily and has been cleaned several times since the participant was last at the camp. Friday was the final day of the summer day camp.

• An employee in the city managing director's office has tested positive for the coronavirus and is currently in isolation. The city said in a news release Friday that all workers in the office have been interviewed and none were found to have had significant exposure to the positive employee. No one else is in quarantine. The employee's work area will be cleaned and disinfected, the city said. Honolulu Hale remains closed to the public about a dozen COVID-19 positive cases were found after testing. The state Department of Health said the suspected sources of the cases include a potluck and breaks when workers mingled.

• Kauai's one new case brings the active cases on the island to 7 and the total to 54. Mayor Derek Kawakami said in his video update that the governor has approved his request to require outside gatherings include no more than 25 people, down from 100. Inside gatherings remain at a maximum of 10. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported 204 cases at OCCC. At this time, it is 200 cases and four in other facilities.

--HPR's News Staff

Hawaii positivity rate exceeds WHO reopening guideline

The World Health Organization says governments can reopen if their rates of positivity -- that is how many COVID-19 tests conducted come back positive -- is below 5% for 14 days. Hawaii is currently at 8.39%, according to the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. It's one of 35 states that should not be reopening by WHO's reckoning.

Even by the state Department of Health's lower positivity rate of 6.2% resulting from a 7-day average, Hawaii would not meet WHO's standard for reopening. And the direction of the Hawaii rate is up rather than down, as daily case counts surge into the hundreds.

Gov. David Ige and county mayors are restoring restrictions imposed earlier in the pandemic in an attempt to tamp down the surge, reducing large gatherings and closing beaches and parks for social and family events. But the effects of those actions won't be known for several weeks. 

Meanwhile, plans proceed tomorrow to open schools -- some for in-class teaching in preparation for distancing learning -- amid protests from teachers, parents and students.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says evidence from schools internationally show that  school reopenings are safe in communities with low virus transmission, but notes computer simulations in Europe indicate school reopenings may further increase infections where community transmission is already high.

CDC Director Robert Redford said in July that experts consider communities as COVID-19 hotspots where positivity rates are above 5%. Right now, that would include Hawaii.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association has filed a prohibited practice complaint against the state with the Hawaii Labor Relations Board asking that the board issue an order preventing the state Department of Education from requiring teachers to report to school while COVID cases are surging.

The teachers union said once it raised its protest over the schools' plans, several made changes to minimize in-person contact. But HSTA said while it appreciates the progress, some schools continue to plan to bring students on campus for face-to-face instruction, among them special needs students.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has insisted schools will reopen tomorrow as planned. She said students need time to train and meet with teachers in order to prepare for the distance learning scheduled to take place in the first month of the new school year. 

She said schools are enforcing safety procedures such as social distancing and face coverings. Over the summer, 8,000 students -- along with staff -- were involved in-person or blended instruction and the DOE saw one COVID-19 case at each of six campuses.

In an emailed update today, the DOE said it has had a total of 15 cases from June 26 to Aug. 14. Among them are six confirmed cases from Aug. 8 to Aug. 14. DOE is not providing school names, only complex areas. Its posted list of affected complexes show the cases are all on Oahu, including two in the Campbell-Kapolei complex.

For parents, the difficult decision this weekend is whether they can live with the odds that the numbers suggest.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

State, city close Waimea Rock

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the city yesterday closed the Waimea Rock that has become a gathering spot in violation of emergency rules during the pandemic.

A social media post lured hundreds to the rock-jumping spot at Waimea Bay early in August and officials said crowds were gathering again.

The city has shut down all Oahu parks, beaches and trails except for approved activities in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases. 

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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