The Latest: 261 New Cases; Transpacific Travel Delayed; DOH To Release More Information
Updated 8/19/20, 3:45 p.m.
Governor David Ige is again postponing the plan to welcome back transpacific travelers due to the large spike in local COVID-19 cases. Daily case counts have been in the triple digits since the beginning of the month and have only declined somewhat in the past two days.
Where we stand
The Hawaii Department of Health reported 2 deaths and 261 new COVID-19 cases today. That brings the state's total to 5,609 and total deaths to 42. Of the new cases, 234 are on Oahu, 20 in Maui County, and 7 on Hawaii Island.
Both deaths were on Oahu -- a man and a woman above the age of 60. No other details were given.
The total cases now include 5,111 on Oahu, 152 on Hawaii Island, 262 in Maui County, and 54 on Kauai. 23 cases were diagnosed out of state.
As of August 16, based on a seven day average, the state health department reported the rate of positive tests stood at 6.3%. The World Health Organization says before a region can relax restrictions and begin reopening, it should be at or below 5% for 14 days.
Transpacific travel delayed until October; DOH to release more information
The travel quarantine would have allowed visitors who test negative before their Hawaii flights to skip the 14-day quarantine requirement.
It was scheduled to take effect on September 1, but has now been pushed back at least another month.
"It will not begin until October 1 at the earliest," said Governor David Ige. "We will continue to monitor the conditions here in Hawaii, as well as key markets on the mainland to detremine the appropriate start date for the pre-travel testing program."
Ige says he will later make an announcement to give the tourism industry the time it needs to prepare.
After criticism about the state's lack of transparency about contact tracing and details on COVID cases, the Department of Health has released more information. For the first time, it provided information to the public about virus clusters, locations of daily cases, and outbreak numbers at long-term care facilities.
DOH plans to release the information at least once a week. Health Director Bruce Anderson says the department will divulge more information soon, but did not give a specific date.
"We have new metrics that we are going to be publishing, including the response time for case investigations and contact tracing," Anderson said.
"We are trying to get that information together as best we can. So we can record it routinely, as well as lab turnaround times. And a lot of other data that we think is going to be useful to give the public a good understanding of exactly where we are, where we're going.
"Our objective is to be current and efficient. What we don't have, we'll let you know. But whatever information we have, we'll be sharing with you all to help support our efforts going forward."
Ige directed the DOH to provide more of the data that's available. Bt he says it'll take time to gather some of the information because it isn't currently captured by the department.
Oahu public school teachers considered essential, to continue in-person classes
Oahu residents are now being urged to work from home, if they can, because of the COVID-19 surge. But that doesn't include some public school teachers.
Those required to teach vulnerable students in specal education or provide English language learner services must do so in person.
But even for other teachesr, it's up to each school principal to decide whether instruction can be done virtually.
"The public school system is an essential service, and we have been coordniating activities with the counties on each island," said Governor David Ige during a Tuesday press conference.
"Every principal is implementing online learning program, and they are allowing teachers to be teaching from home. There are some students who will be on-campus because we cannot provide online learning for them. And so, as required by federal and state laws, for those students, we will be providing face-to-face lessons and programs as required.
"So the principals do have the authority and are implementing programs tha tare appropriate t the staff and student needs."
The state teachers union doesn't want its members to be forced to go to campus. It says what principals are doing has been inconsistent.
Some schools are exclusively teaching remotely. Others are requiring hundreds of children to physicall return to schools and still otherse are not allowing any teachers to telework -- even if they don't need to hold in-person classes.
Case calls for Trump administration to stop USPS changes
Representative Ed Case is demanding the Trump Administration completely halt any changes to the U.S. Postal Service.
U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced Tuesday he is suspending controversial cost-saving measures, such as overtime pay and the closure of processing facilities, until after the November elections. DeJoy says it was to avoid the appearance of "any impact on election mail."
Case says the suspension is not enough -- adding that recent actions and criticisms against the postal service by the administration are very concerning.
"One has to ask the question, what does this all add up to?" Case said.
"And what it adds up to me is a concerted effort by this administration to undermine the full functioning of the U.S. Postal Service. I believe that is in large part related to an effort to discourage mail in voting to the advantage of the president in his reelection campaign.
"And that's a direct attack on democracy itself."
Case will be traveling to Washington D.C. to vote on a House bill taht would give $25 billion to assist the USPS.