Hawaii Updates: 41 New COVID Cases Set Record; Bar, Gym Clusters May Prompt Reopening Rollback

Jul 7, 2020

Updated: 7/7/2020, 1:26 p.m.

The Hawaii Department of Health today reported 41 new cases of COVID-19, a state record for daily cases since the pandemic began. Thirty-eight cases are on Oahu, 2 on Kauai and 1 on Hawaii Island.

The state's total coronavirus case count now stands at 1,071 with 19 deaths. Oahu has 788 cases, Maui County has 128, Hawaii County has 95 and Kauai County has 42. Eighteen residents have been diagnosed outside of the state. One-hundred nineteen people have required hospitalization and 797 people have been released from isolation.

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

 

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said today 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 mask at all times. 

Yesterday, state Health Director Bruce Anderson made similar remarks.

 

“The rise in cases is alarming as we continue to reopen businesses and get closer to welcoming more visitors from states with higher rates of infection and large outbreaks," said Anderson. "The single most important thing that we can all do today is wear a mask when we are outside our homes."

State could roll back easing of restrictions

Hawaii Gov. David Ige says he'll be evaluating if the state should re-impose restrictions on recently reopened bars and gyms after the state Department of Health linked several COVID-19 clusters back to those businesses.

"We are considering targeted rollbacks in those areas that are creating the opportunities to spread the virus. So that would be bars, gyms," he said during an online press conference yesterday.

"We've seen the number of cases that have come out of a gym. We do know that social gatherings are adding to the case count. So certainly we are looking at all of those and trying to make decisions about whether it would be appropriate for us to roll back the reduced guidelines."

The governor's comments came after at least nine people were infected during a large fitness class where people were not wearing masks while exercising. 

The state said in a news release that the health department found the gym did not have the space to properly physical distance, had poor ventilation, and lacked masks for those not exercising. It is now closed and community outreach and testing activities are underway.

Ige said factors like a major increase in cases and hospital capacity will dictate whether Hawaii will have to close down again. But the administration has no precise numbers that would cause the state to reverse its phased reopening. The governor said he hopes to have more concrete triggers in coming days.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo 

Senate president says all test negative after one positive case

All staff in a state senator's office have tested negative after one person in the office became infected, according to state Senate President Ron Kouchi. He informed members on July 4 about the positive case.

Kouchi said in a memo to senators today that everyone should socially distance, wear face masks in the Capitol, wash hands, and sanitize equipment and touch points. 

The Capitol building remains closed to the general public.

In March, the state Capitol building was closed after Sen. Clarence Nishihara reported testing positive for COVID-19. He later said subsequent tests indicated he had a false positive.

The state House in June announced that a staffer in the majority research office had tested positive. The Legislature was closed to the public and office workers self-isolated at home.

City environmental services employee tests positive for COVID-19

An employee of the city Department of Environmental Services has tested positive for COVID-19. Officials announced today that the employee is part of a family cluster of cases identified over the weekend.

The employee notified his supervisor on Sunday night. He works for the Department of Environmental Services Collection Systems Maintenance Division.

Several members of the division are self-quarantining to reduce the risk of further exposure. The crew works from Monday to Friday. 

“We adopted healthy workplace practices at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including providing masks to employees, encouraging frequent handwashing and disinfecting workplaces, and advising individuals to remain 6-feet apart,” ENV Director Lori Kahikina said in a statement. “These practices remain a part of the daily work environment to protect our employees.”

Legislature passes bills authorizing travel testing, facial recognition

The state Senate passed a measure yesterday that authorizes the Department of Health to screen, test and monitor travelers to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

H.B. 2502, S.D. 2 also provides hotels with funding to conduct employee testing and establishes a travelers screening fund using money from the Transient Accommodations Tax. 

"The unprecedented pandemic has highlighted the need for our state to effectively respond to disease outbreaks,” said Sen. Roz Baker, chair of the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health.

“Screening travelers is an important strategy in fighting the spread of disease, and this measure will allow the [health] department the latitude to screen, test, and perform contact tracing for people who are infected or at risk of infection.”

She said the authority to declare an emergency remains with the governor and that should a vaccine for COVID-19 become available, the measure would not require vaccinations.

The bill next goes to the House for a review of the Senate amendments.

In the state House, representatives approved S.B. 2185, H.D. 1 that allows facial recognition in limited circumstances, such as when used by police to compare surveillance images of a crime against mugshots. 

The bill would also permit the facial recognition screening planned at the airport to detect and identify those with fevers to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But that use would be balanced against privacy rights by requiring the immediate destruction of the data and prohibitions on sharing the information. 

The measure returns to the Senate for a review of the House changes.

Over 2,000 people arrive in the state

Yesterday, 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.