Hawaii Updates: 23 New Cases Today; No Rollback After Sharp Spike; Kauai: TVRs Not For Quarantines

Jul 8, 2020

Updated: 7/8/2020, 12:07 p.m.

The state Department of Health reported 23 new COVID-19 cases following a record 41 cases yesterday. The 20 cases are on Oahu, 2 on Maui and 1 on Hawaii Island.

The state's total coronavirus case count now stands at 1,094 with 19 deaths. Oahu has 808 cases, Maui County has 130, Hawaii County has 96 and Kauai County has 42. Eighteen residents have been diagnosed outside of the state. One hundred twenty-two people have required hospitalization and 811 people have been released from isolation.

The health department said it is monitoring several clusters. As of yesterday, the Hawaiian Airlines outbreak that developed after flight attendant training grew to 15 cases -- 13 employees and 2 close contacts of the workers.

Nine cases are tied to a Honolulu gym that the department said yesterday had poor ventilation and insufficient space to physically distance. Other recent clusters have developed at a food distribution company (7 cases); hardware distributor (4 cases); and on Kauai (17 cases). The department is continuing to test and reach out to the community in those cases.

Over the July 4th weekend, the health department reported a total of 78 new cases, including 25 on Sunday, 24 on Saturday and 29 on Friday, when one death was also reported. On Monday, there were 7 new cases.

 

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said yesterday on Instagram that Hawaii remains the lowest in the nation in rates of death and COVID-19 infections per hundred thousand population. But he said he knows people are asking whether Hawaii can open to more tourists, as the state has planned, given the surge in cases.

 

"Can we really open on August 1st? Well, we have to prepare to be as safe as possible nationally. That's what we have to do. Whether or not the governor decides we have to move out the date because schools' opening and things are out of control in the mainland, I understand," he said.

 

"The good news remains on the flip side of the board, which is our ICU and ventilator capacity, when weighed against how much we actually have, as far as cases are the lowest in the nation, so we're very good, but we're gonna have to be very cautious."

 

Green said his advice is not to gather in groups greater than 10 people and wear a face mask at all times. Despite a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases, state officials say they will continue on with their plans to reopen the islands. That includes lifting the travel quarantine next month for Mainland travelers who test negative before their flights to Hawaii.

State plans no rollback of restrictions after record daily case count

The 41 new cases reported yesterday amounted to the state’s highest daily increase since the pandemic began. But Gov. David Ige said during a press conference yesterday that the numbers, while concerning, are not cause for panic.

"We have the health care system capacity. And none of the hospitals as we speak today are threatened. We don't have capacity issues concerning ICU units, or the ability of anyone who gets COVID-19 to get the health services that they need," Ige said.

 

"So I do want to assure the public that we are not in a situation where the number of cases that we've seen today and, in the recent past, threatens the health care system in any way. What I would want to remind everyone is that we all need to take personal responsibility to maintain that as we move forward."

 

The state hasn’t yet established concrete numbers for new cases or hospital capacity that would prompt the state to shut down again. But Ige said he’ll be meeting with county mayors today to discuss how their efforts to reopen can safely continue.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo

Kauai vacation rentals can't be used for quarantine

 

Transient vacation units or TVRs can't be used for quarantine, the Kauai Planning Department reminded travelers. The 14-day mandatory quarantine for arriving visitors and returning residents from out of state remains in effect.

 

The department said it received a large number of inquiries about using transient vacation rentals and homestays for quarantine accommodations.

 

“We are reminding all incoming transpacific travelers that TVRs and homestays are prohibited for your first 14 days here in the state," said Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami in a news release. "This includes new or intended Kaua‘i residents.”

 

No incoming out-of-state traveler can quarantine at a short-term rental or homestay unit, unless that person is the unit owner. All others must instead stay at a motel or hotel.

 

Those who are not required to abide by the mandatory quarantine, such as interisland travelers, can lodge at a short-term vacation rental.

 

More information is available on the County of Kauai website.

 

Late senator memorialized in ceremony

The state Senate yesterday honored one of its own -- the late Breene Harimoto, who represented Pearl City and Aiea for six years.

Last month, Harimoto died from pancreatic cancer after years of fighting the disease. He was 66 years old.

During the Senate ceremony, Gov. David Ige praised Harimoto’s work on issues such as education, affordable housing and transportation.

Ige said Harimoto worked closely with him throughout his political career, and served on the governor’s affordable housing task force.

“Two and a half years ago, Sen. Breene Harimoto posted to his Twitter account, ‘Life is a precious gift. Live with hope, faith and love in your heart.’ Breene did just that, and our lives are richer because Breene had hope for the future, faith in Hawaii’s people, and love for all of us in his heart,” the governor said.

Harimoto served on the Honolulu City Council and the Board of Education for several years.

He is survived by his parents, his wife, three children and three grandchildren. 

--HPR's Amy Nakamura

Another Ige nominee dealt setback

The Senate Committee on Labor, Culture and the Arts voted against the appointment of Damien Elefante as chairperson of the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board. 

Yesterday, the committee held its second hearing on the appointment. The committee said it received considerable online written testimony, both in support and opposition to Elefante.

Elefante was nominated by Gov. David Ige for the position in March. If confirmed, Elefante would serve as chairperson until 2030. 

Several committee members questioned Elefante about his experience with worker compensation laws and his general background.

“Going forward, to have somebody with the skills and knowledge in this position is really going to benefit the people in labor,” Sen. Kurt Fevella said. 

The nomination will now go to the Senate floor this week for a vote.

Earlier this week, Ige's nominees for tax director, finance director and a member of the land board failed to win the support of key Senate committees. They are also up for floor votes in coming days.

--HPR's Amy Nakamura

Over 2,000 people arrive in the state

On Monday, 2,637 people arrived in Hawaii, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Of that number, 616 people are visitors and 839 are returning residents. 

Others who arrived in the state included 365 military members, 228 who are exempt from quarantining, 295 crew members, 158 travelers in transit, and 136 who say they are relocating to Hawaii.

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.