The Latest: 3 Deaths, 87 New Cases; BOE Directs Schools To Apply Same Reopening Rules Statewide
Updated: 10/2/2020, 12:05 p.m.
The Hawaii Department of Health today reported three deaths from COVID-19 and 87 new cases. The latest statewide case count brought the total number of infections to 12,601 since the pandemic began. Deaths total 142.
There have now been 11,365 cases on Oahu (70 new cases), 752 on Hawaii Island (16 new cases), 391 for Maui County (no new cases), and 59 on Kauai County (no new cases). Those diagnosed out of state climbed to 34. One case from Honolulu was removed from the count due to updated information.
The seven-day average positivity rate fell to 2.9% statewide yesterday. The county rates ranged from 4% for Oahu, 1.5% for Hawai'i County, 0.4% for Kaua'i County and 0.2% for Maui County.
The three whose deaths were reported yesterday were all Oahu residents.
Two men, both with underlying medical conditions, were elderly -- one in his 70s and one in his 60s. A woman in her 80s also with medical conditions was the third death. All were hospitalized when they died.
Same reopening rules to apply across public schools
The state Board of Education is directing public schools to use the same health standards across the state in deciding when to reopen.
Earlier, principals and complex area superintendents could decide when students learning remotely should return to campus.
But now schools must follow the state health department’s guidance -- that includes reviewing COVID-19 cases in the schools’ communities before reopening classes.
The Department of Education previously described the guidelines as flexible. But at a board meeting yesterday, Chair Catherine Payne said they shouldn’t be.
"We did have expectations that Department of Health guidelines would be included in the criteria for reopening," Payne said. "And I know that we moved forward plans for reopening, but just based on testimony alone, it's clear that that's also very unevenly accomplished across our state."
Parents will now receive at least two weeks’ notice before schools switch between learning modes, such as from distance learning to in-person classes or a blend of the two.
Advance notice can be waived in direct response to an imminent spread of COVID-19.
The board is also requiring health officials to explain why some of their guidelines aren’t aligned with the school reopening rules from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Schools begin their second quarter on October 12th when some students may be back on campus learning in person.
--HPR's Ashley Mizuo
Another Hilo nursing home reports outbreak
Another nursing home in Hilo is grappling with a COVID-19 outbreak after 12 residents and 5 employees tested positive for the virus.
The first known case of COVID-19 at the Life Care Center in Hilo came last Wednesday, when an employee tested positive in the community.
This employee did not have direct contact with residents, and the facility has been screening staff upon arrival and departure from work.
Still, coronavirus cases at the Hilo nursing home gradually increased over the past week and a half.
Facility-wide testing found 12 residents and 5 staff positive for the virus. One resident has been hospitalized, and the remaining COVID-positive residents have been moved to an isolated COVID-19 unit with dedicated staff.
Mark Mann, executive director of the Life Care Center, says residents are monitored multiple times a day and night for any symptoms or concerns
He says the facility will continue to test weekly until further notice. The Life Care Center is home to 205 residents and 210 employees.
In a statement on the company’s website, Mann said: “We take what we are doing seriously, and we are spending our time on the front lines with those who matters most – our residents.”
Meanwhile, the death toll at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo remained at 27 as of yesterday. The nursing facility has had 71 residents and 35 staff test positive for COVID-19.
A U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs team of specialists has been working at the home to help bring the outbreak under control. A VA assessment found serious deficiencies in infection control practices and patient management at the facility that contributed to the infections.
The operator of the home, Avalon Health Care Group, is being removed and one family of a decorated Vietnam veteran who died in early September sued the company this week, accusing it of providing substandard care.
Avalon has maintained that it followed required federal, state and county guidelines.
--HPR's Ku?uwehi Hiraishi
Pressure for nurses easing as COVID-19 cases decline
As COVID-19 cases surged in the Islands in August, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii put out an urgent call for nurses.
The organization received 1,900 responses from around the world. Recently unemployed nurses and new graduates were prioritized, and the list was sent to organizations around the state.
The priority for the emergency hires included recent nurse graduates who didn’t already have a job.
As cases have dropped, so has the urgency. Only an estimated 50 nurses were hired. But the list could still be useful in the future.
"The vast majority of the organization who received the file have said that if there's another surge, they're definitely going to be looking at this list to recruit needed nurses," said Laura Reichhardt, the executive director of the Hawaii State Nursing Center.
"We also, HAH and the Center for Nursing, are receiving daily updates from organizations, like, 'I need nurses now,' or 'Oh, my goodness, I think things are starting to get more urgent at my facility. Can you help us?' So we are continuing to deploy this file to organizations that have need.”
For more on the state of nursing in Hawaii, visit The Conversation page.
State withholds numbers of positive cases among homeless
COVID-19 testing for O'ahu's homeless has now been underway for about a month.
State Homeless Coordinator Scott Morishige says the tests have found positive cases, but he won’t say how many.
He did confirm that a cluster of cases was recently found in what he called the “town area” of Honolulu, although he did not give a specific location.
"We shouldn't all have concern that I'm saying we found positive cases in town, because the reality is we're seeing positive cases throughout the island," Morishige said,
"The more important thing is that as these cases are identified, we're able to respond to them quickly because we've created a system now that not only has mobile testing, it has the isolation and quarantine units, and it has our 24-hour CARES line -- 832-8100 -- that you can call any time day or night to get information about isolation and quarantine, COVID-19 testing, or other services."
Mobile testing has also begun on Hawai'i island through providers contracted by the county.
At least two positive cases of COVID have been found in the shelter system there, but Morishige says officials quickly isolated the cases.
The Department of Health's mental health crisis line is 832-3100.
--HPR's Noe Tanigawa