Hawaii Updates: 17 New Cases Spark Renewed Call For Caution; Chief: HPD Not In Need Of Major Reform

Jun 13, 2020

Updated: 6/13/2020, 12 p.m.

The Hawaii Department of Health reported another sharp spike in cases of COVID-19 Saturday with 17 new cases reported. That follow's Friday's 15 new infections.

“We always knew with the reopening of activities and businesses across the state we would see increases in coronavirus infections," State Epidemiologist Sarah Park said in a news release Saturday.

"Two of the cases reported today did require hospitalization but our statewide bed capacity remains strong.  However, these new cases are reminders for all of us to maintain safe practices to prevent even higher case surges which could threaten our state’s healthcare capacity.”

All but one of Saturday's cases are Oahu adults. Two of the new cases are part of a household cluster in Waipahu that now numbers 12. 

About 300 residents in surrounding households have been tested and screened. All have tested negative, other than those in the single household.

After updated testing information, the number of COVID-19 cases statewide now stands at 723. The number of deaths remains at 17.

The case count for Oahu is now at 489, Maui County at 120, Hawaii County at 81 and Kauai County at 21. Some 628 people have been released from isolation.

On Friday, Gov. David Ige also said the increase was expected as the state reopens in phases.

"Just want to asssure everyone that it is a manageable number that we have prepared for," Ige said during an online press conference Friday. He said the number of cases will gradually increase with the easing of restrictions and hospital officials have been monitoring the activity. Hospital utilization is low enough that the state feels it can comfortably deal with the higher numbers of cases.

Ige also said, unlike some other states, Hawaii has kept number of cases down in senior care facilities. Only one Maui patient has been reported positive with the virus, apart from several employees who have contracted the virus.

Yesterday's Hawaii Updates: 15 New Cases; Green: Awaiting Visitor Pre-Testing OK; In-Person Summer Classes Start

On Thursday, Hawaii saw 7 new cases, prompting Lt. Gov. Josh Green to say they were part of a Memorial Day bump that came after the holiday gatherings. He also said the local Black Lives Matter demonstrations were peaceful, but people were together.

"So we're going to see those numbers kinda be up more than usual," Green said on his Instagram page. He said the new cases were likely those who came into contact with asymptomatic people.

But Health Director Bruce Anderson said Friday at the governor's press conference that the department has no evidence that any of the recent cases were the result of Memorial Day or BLM crowds.

He said 10 of Friday's 15 new cases came from the one Waipahu household where there was one previously infected adult. Anderson said the family lived in close quarters in a home with two bedrooms. Those infected have been placed in quarantine, he said. 

He said there are locations in all counties for those who need to quarantine outside of their home. In the latest case, the department is looking at moving those in the household not infected to a hotel to isolate them from those who are sick.

All of Friday's new cases -- 6 children and 9 adults -- are on Oahu. Anderson said the state has been conducting outreach on Oahu in low-income parts of Kalihi, Palolo, and Waipahu to follow up on cases and provide education about the virus.

Green said when Hawaii opens up to travel to the Mainland, officials have to be mindful of the recent surge in positive cases in states such as California, Arizona, Utah, South Carolina and Texas.

He said Hawaii will have testing in advance and "it will be very well done." According to Green, the state will partner with CVS as part of a large alliance and he's hoping for approval soon.

In a research paper issued earlier this month, University of Hawaii and East-West Center researchers said pre-departure symptom screening together with COVID-19 testing of tourists could eliminate 80 to 90 percent of infectious passengers.

Symptom screening alone, they said, would introduce 750 additional coronavirus cases into Hawaii based on 6,000 daily visitors.

Officials urged residents to continue taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including using frequent handwashing, face masks and practicing social distancing.

--HPR News Staff

Ballard: No major reform needed in HPD

Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard says she does not believe the HPD is in need of major reform. Ballard says the department is continuing to review its use of force policy and could continue to improve its training.

Her comments, in an interview with Hawaii Public Radio on Friday, come in the wake of protests locally and across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

But Ballard does not agree with the movement of some on the mainland who are calling for “defunding” of police departments.

“With the defunding, it’s taking money away from the police department and giving it to other agencies who, one—especially here in Hawaii, while the social workers do an awesome job, there’s just not enough of them to do the work that the police officers do," Ballard said.

"So I would suggest that instead of defunding the police we should re-fund all the social agencies so that they can continue to work with us side-by-side with the homeless, the mentally ill.”

You can hear the full interview with Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard Monday morning on The Conversation, at 11 a.m. on HPR-1. Also streaming on hawaiipublicradio.org and on our HPR mobile app.

--HPR's Bill Dorman

 

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.