Hawaii Updates: 8 New Cases; Catching An Interisland Flight? Get To Airport Early, State Advises

Jun 15, 2020

Updated: 6/15/2020, 12:05 p.m.

Where we stand

The Hawaii Department of Health reported 8 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. All are on Oahu. The increase follows Sunday's 5 new cases, Saturday's 17 cases and Friday's 15 infections.

After adjusting for updated testing information, the number of COVID-19 cases statewide now stands at 736. The number of deaths remains at 17.

The case count for Oahu is at 501, Maui County at 120, Hawaii County at 82 and Kauai County at 21. Some 630 people have been released from isolation.

“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, the health department said.

On Friday, Gov. David Ige also said the increase was expected.

"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: Interisland Travel Form Now Available; 5 New Cases; Arrivals Near 2,000

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 homes. 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

Arrivals near 2,000 at state airports

On Saturday, 1,948 people arrived in the islands, with 457 visitors and 696 returning residents among them, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Others in the total: 227 crew members, 176 travelers in transit, 191 military, 107 exempt from quarantine, and 94 who say they are relocating to Hawaii.

The state's mandatory 14-day quarantine remains in effect. That means all arrivals must self-quarantine for 14 days and not leave their lodging. Violators are subject to arrest and face possible fines and jail time. 

Safety procedures in place as interisland travel quarantine lifts tomorrow

State officials have posted the new interisland travel and health form that must be downloaded and filled out before a flight between the islands. And they're advising that passengers get to the airport early.

Starting Tuesday, the quarantine for interisland travel will be lifted as part of the state's phased reopening, but the travel form and other procedures are required.

The easing of quarantine requirements only applies to those who aren't otherwise subject to the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Arriving mainland and international passengers must still self-quarantine unless they are specifically exempted.

The interisland travel and health form is available at https://health.hawaii.gov/travel, along with instructions which include:

• Twenty-four hours before flight, check in with your airlines, fill out the mandatory travel and health form and bring it along with you.

• Three hours before flight, enter the health screening checkpoint at the airport where your temperature will be checked. Anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will not be allowed to board their flight. Complete the TSA check.

• On the flight, follow the airlines rules on wearing masks, physical distancing and sanitation procedures.

• On deplaning, follow the airlines requirements for wearing masks and physical distancing.

Officials are working on an online form linked to a QR code that would expedite future scanning and screening at the airport.

"Flying between islands will be a different experience," said Gov. David Ige in a news release Sunday. He strongly encouraged travelers to fill out the form before they arrive at the airport and asked they be patient with the new procedures.

“We all must continue the safe practices that led to the decision to resume interisland travel," state Epidemiologist Sarah Park added. "These safe practices: physical distancing, using masks in public, washing our hands, and staying home when sick, are just as important now, as they were three months ago.” 

Similar to the days following 9/11, the state advises that travelers get to the airport exztra early for the submittal of the travel form and thermal scanning, which will occur prior to the TSA security screening. 

Governor to detail plans for pre-testing of out-of-state travelers

Gov. David Ige is expected to release more details this week on reopening the state to mainland and international travel, a plan that could call for pre-testing of Hawaii-bound passengers.

Visitors who test negative before their flights to Hawaii could be spared the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement that remains in effect through July 31. Ige said Friday that it is one of the measures the state is considering as it prepares to fully allow out-of-state travelers.

"If we enable the pre-testing,before departure from different locations, and establishing processes so we could verify test results, and be comfortable that initiating travel from these locations with travelers testing before departure and working to create a system of screening while they're here, would minimize the risk of spreading, introducing and spreading COVID here in the islands," he said.

The state is also looking at creating so-called travel bubbles that would only allow visitors from countries and states that have low numbers of COVID-19 cases. Ige said the countries he’s most interested in are Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

"We have begun the government to government discussions that are required. I've been in contact with the consul general of Japan and Korea and New Zealand. I will be meeting with consul general of Australia in the coming days to initiate conversations," said Ige.

"On the domestic side, we've had discussions with Alaska and certainly looking at other states with low prevalence. Although they don't have many visitors coming to the islands right now, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho."

He said the states on the west coast like California and Washington that have provided more visitors to Hawaii are having a surge in their coronavirus cases.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green says he’s been trying to partner with CVS to administer pre-flight testing, but is still awaiting approval.

Ige expects the mandatory quarantine to remain in place in some form, even as the state reopens for mainland and international travel. The quarantine lifts for interisland travelers beginning on Tuesday with safety measures in place.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo

UH seeking volunteers for coronavirus study

University of Hawaii researchers are looking for men and women who have tested positive for the coronavirus to participate in their first COVID-19 clinical trials.

The researchers want to examine how the drug Telmisartan helps coronavirus patients.

Dr. Cecilia Shikuma, the lead investigator in the study, says that COVID-19 infects the lung and heart cells. It does it by throwing off the hormone system.

“We think that if we use a drug like Telmisartan which is specifically used to block the effects of this renin angiotension system, that we can prevent some of the harmful complications that this virus is causing and really promote the beneficial counter regulatory anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic aspects of this system.”

The UH researchers are seeking 40 unpaid volunteers who caught the virus and showed symptoms.

However, Shikuma says they will not be accepting patients who have low blood pressure, are undergoing other medical treatments or are pregnant. 

The study will run for 21 days. More information is available on the JABSOM website.

--HPR's Amy Nakamura

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.