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The Latest: 90 New Cases; State To Test Water For Lead At Schools, Childcare Facilities

Jason Gillman from Pixabay

Updated 2/1/21, 12 p.m.

Some Hawaii schools and childcare facilities water pipes will be tested for lead this year. It's part of a federal initiative partially funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"The reason we think it's really important is because lead exposure is bad for kids," said Dr. Diane Felton, state toxicologist.

"And we just really want to try to eliminate any possible places that kids might be getting exposed to lead. And while drinking water is not a common source of exposure for kids in Hawaii, it has been a problem in many places on the mainland."

Exposure to lead can cause developmental and brain issues -- especially in young children.

Only schools and childcare facilities built before 1988 will be tested -- that's when Hawaii banned using lead in water infrastructure. 

The state last did a similar study in 2008, and places covered then will not be retested.

The tests will be conducted during the summer and outside of school hours to minimize the impact on services. Results are expected in late 2021, early 2022.

A list of participating facilities can be found at health.hawaii.gov/WIIN

-- HPR's Ashley Mizuo

Where we stand

The state Department of Health reported 90 new cases and no new fatalities on Monday.

According to the state's numbers, O?ahu had 57, Maui 19, Hawai?i Island 7, Kaua?i 1, and Lanai and Moloka?i had no new cases. 6 resident was diagnosed out of state.

The latest state count brings the O?ahu total to 20,980, Hawai?i County 2,170, Maui 1,753, Kaua?i 179, Lanai 107, and Moloka?i 25. The number of out-of-state cases totals 730.

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 25,943 cases. The death toll stands at 410.

HTA hopeful for recovery in the future

About 75% fewer visitors came to Hawaii in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the latests visitor statistics from the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

While the industry is in dire straits, there is some hope on the horizon. 

Tourism officials are optimistic that Japan's vaccine rollout could mean an increase in visitors from the country by this summer.

Longer-term events are also in the works that could boost tourism later this decade.

"We just got information on the 28th of January from the Rotary Club International Board of Directors that we were selected, Hawaii, Honolulu, as a destination tentatively as a host city for the 2027 rotary," said Pattie Herman, HTA vice president of marketing and product development.

Herman says while single day conventions or events held on a single property can be scheduled a year in advance, a city-wide event is usually scheduled years in advance.

The Rotary International 2020 convention was scheduled to be held in Honolulu last June, but the event went viral due to the pandemic. 

Ashley Mizuo is the government reporter for Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Contact her at amizuo@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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