Hawaii Updates: 11 New Cases; Health Officials Say Lax Practices Led To Recent New COVID-19 Cases

Jun 21, 2020

Updated: 6/21/2020, 2:32 p.m.

Where we stand

The Hawaii Department of Health reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 today, 9 on Oahu and 2 on the Big Island. 

Yesterday, there were seven new cases on Kauai, all in a single household where an infected person had been previously identified. Those testing positive were placed in quarantine and the Kauai District Health Office is continuing contact tracing to identify any additional cases.

Dr. Janet Berreman, Kaua’i District health officer, said of the seven cases, three are children. None have required hospitalization and all are asymptomatic or mildly ill. 

"As we move forward with more activities and in particular with more travel, we will no doubt see more cases," Berreman said.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami added that the return of COVID-19 was expected, "but it is disturbing, and it reinforces our need to be extremely careful to contain the spread."

Yesterday's Hawaii Updates:  14 New Cases, 7 on Kauai; State Says It Can Manage Higher Case Load

Today's 11 new cases follows Saturday's 14 cases, Friday's 27 cases, Thursday's 18 cases, Wednesday's 5 cases; Tuesday's 4 cases; Mondayʻs 8 cases; and last Sunday's 5 cases. Last week Saturday saw 17 cases and Friday 15 infections.

The state reported as of today 814 total cases of COVID-19. The number of deaths remains at 17.

The case count for Oahu now stands at 566, Maui County at 122, Hawaii County at 85, and Kauai County at 29. Kauai County's new cases are the first on the island since early April.

Of the total cases, 97 have required hospitalization and 651 have been released from isolation.

Health officials say they believe the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases resulted from Hawaii residents growing lax about maintaining safe practices, including physical distancing, wearing face masks and frequent hand washing.

"We have investigated every case with positive test results and identified several household clusters over the last few days," said state Health Director Bruce Anderson in a news release Saturday. "The identification of these clusters and subsequent investigations resulted in the isolation and quarantine of cases and close contacts."

"These clusters reinforce the importance of maintaining safe practices, especially wearing masks and physically distancing when meeting with people outside your immediate ohana.”

One of the new Oahu cases on Saturday was tied to a previously confirmed case; both people had attended a house party.

The state has said that while the new cases are concerning, the healthcare system can handle the numbers thus far. 

The majority of the new cases in recent days are related to clusters in large households with crowded conditions, adult care and long-term nursing facilities  and home gatherings.

Health officials are most concerned with a cluster at the state's largest skilled nursing facility, Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, where many elderly live.

According to the facility's website late updated on Friday, seven residents and five staff workers had tested positive for the coronavirus. Five of the residents have been hospitalized and two remain in Hale Nani in an isolation unit.

Staff members are self-isolating at home and won't return to work until medically cleared. All residents and staff of units where there were positive cases were to be retested yesterday and a second round of testing is scheduled this week.

State Epidemiologist Sarah Park said virtually all of the newly reported cases are due to community-spread, often within a group setting, rather than being travel-related.

Park said there is no evidence that recent protests, referring to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, have led to the recent spike in cases.

"Nonetheless, we continue to strongly encourage physical distancing and use of face masks when people are engaged in practicing First Amendment rights, or while in any other large gatherings, with people who don't live in the same household," she said.

Governor extends emergency proclamation for Kauai floods

Gov. David Ige issued a supplemental emergency proclamation for Kauai, which continues to deal with the aftermath of flooding and significant damage that occurred in late March.

The proclamation was first issued on April 22 and provides emergency relief and appropriation of state funds to help Kauai recover from the flooding.

The latest supplemental proclamation extends that assistance through Aug. 19.

HFD launches new online firecracker permit application

Residents planning on purchasing fireworks for permitted holidays and events can apply for a permit on the Honolulu Fire Department's new online system.

The system works only on Google Chrome and can be accessed on the department website under "Fire Code: Inspection, Permits and Fireworks," then "HFD Firecrackers E-Permits." Single or multiple firecracker permits for allowable holidays and events can be obtained for a $25 fee per permit. 

Permits are required to buy firecrackers. The fee is nonrefundable and permits cannot be transferred.

Firecrackers must be purchased from licensed retailers no earlier than five days prior to its use. No more than 5,000 fireworks can be sold with each permit.

“We hope people will respect the fireworks ordinance and understand the dangers associated with firecracker use," said Fire Chief Manuel P. Neves in a news release. "While the number of fireworks-related injuries on Oahu is typically lower than elsewhere in the nation, even a single incident is one too many because it causes suffering which is preventable.” 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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.