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The Latest: City To Reopen Thursday But Slowly; 63 New Cases, Continuing Decline

Hawaii Department of Health

Updated: 9/22/2020, 2:40 p.m. The City and County of Honolulu will lift its stay-at-home order Thursday, setting up criteria for reopening that will allow businesses to operate under limited capacity and gatherings of up to 5 people such as at beaches. 

The city has drafted a tiered framework for the reopening and says Oahu will remain in "Tier 1" status for at least four weeks and until it can ease into fewer restrictions based on the number of COVID-19 cases in the community and the 7-day average positivity rate.

Both of these have been declining in recent days, but it will be at least a month before things will ease up to the next tier. Canopys will be allowed at city parks, but only with permits.

Other changes starting Thursday will allow retail to reopen at 50% capacity; spiritual services at 50% capacity; up to 10 people for funerals; hair salons, barber shops and nail salons can open but not massage or tattoo parlors; restaurants can open at 50% capacity, with in-house dining allowed for parties up to 5 who are all in the same household; and net sports up to 5 people will be allowed. Bars may not be allowed to reopen for several months.

See below for more information and return later for updates.

CCH Reopening Framework and Matrix Final 09.22.2020 by hawaiipublicradio on Scribd

Where we stand

The Hawaii Department of Health today reported no new deaths from COVID-19 and 63 cases statewide. It is the third consecutive day of double-digit case counts, a further sign that the spread in the state may be easing. 

Today's statewide COVID-19 case count brought the total number of infections to 11,522. Deaths stood at 120. While no deaths were reported, the health department said yesterday it is awaiting medical records and reports on 20 fatalities for verification and classification.

There have now been 10,393 cases on Oahu, 659 on Hawaii Island, 385 for Maui County, and 57 on Kauai. Twenty-eight residents have been diagnosed out of state. 

Along with the declining case count for new infections, the state's positivity rate has been dropping in recent days. 

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said in his Instagram video yesterday that while the numbers look promising, residents should still be careful.

"Eleven hundred sixty-two tests -- that's a 4.8% positivity rate. The rolling positivity rate, though, has dropped under 2%, which is very good news," he said. "We are seeing definitely a turning of the corner. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be safe. Even though we have fewer active cases today than we did yesterday and so on for the last four days, everyone must realize that if we let our guard down, it'll be very dangerous."

He urged everyone to continue wearing masks and socially distance.

Green had tested positive for COVID earlier this month. He says he's been cleared by the state health department but plans to remain in quarantine with his family through Friday.

Mass testing underway at Halawa, Kulani correctional centers

The state Department of Public Safety is conducting mass COVID-19 tests at the Halawa Correctional Center on Oahu and Kulani Correctional Center on the Big Island.

A mass testing at Waiawa Correctional Center produce no positive results from 229 inmates, DPS said. Of 98 staff tests, all were negative and one was positive.

DPS declared the outbreak at the Oahu Community Correctional Center contained after 310 inmates, 10 active, and 91 staff, 29 active, tested positive for the virus. 

Longline fishing industry pins hopes on restaurant reopening


The Hawai’i Longline Association says the local fishing industry has lost about 60% of its revenues since mid-March, with many boats unable to justify the expense of going out.


Honolulu's Fish to Dish program has gotten underway, linking fishermen, fish processors, and those who need food in the community.


It's being run by the Hawai'i Seafood Council, whose program manager, John Kaneko, sees it as a distribution system pilot that could be ramped up in the future.


Currently, the city has allotted $2.6 million in CARES Act funding to help shore up Hawai’i’s fishing industry. Kaneko says there may not be more help ahead.


"I have no indication there's any further support. We haven't even been asking that. I try to follow Congress. They can't seem to come up with any movement." he said.


"But what we're basically counting on, is that we have some kind of controlled reopening of restaurant demand, slowly moving back into market situations where the fishermen can make money, prices are good, and you're going to match supply with the demand as it increases."  


A 2016 NOAA study showed that fishing generates about $1 billion a year in sales and impacts nearly 10,000 jobs across the state.


--HPR's Noe Tanigawa



Oahu beaches endangered by coastal erosion


Oahu could lose up to 40 percent of its beaches by the middle of the century  if shoreline management practices don’t change.

That’s according to a recent study from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Researchers say as sea levels rise, beaches will move inland. But they warn the current practice of hardening shorelines with sea walls – will cause beach loss, increasing coastal erosion.

Study author Kammie Tavares says private landowners and state agencies need to start planning now.

"We really react to the situation right now. And we don’t have programs in place, or plans in place, to be proactive about our situation," she said.

"But with our research, we have identified areas that would expect to have more erosion issues in the future. So if we could look at those areas, and identify places that we want to protect, then we can start to plan out how exactly we can do that. So does that mean moving a road away from the shoreline, or helping to transition beachfront owners away from the shoreline."

Tavares says losing beaches and coastal areas will have environmental and economic impacts.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

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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