Hawaii Updates: Cases At 95; Stay-At-Home Order In Effect; Death Case Is Negative

Mar 25, 2020

Hawaii's coronavirus case count now stands at 95, according to the state health department's latest update. The number represents an increase of 6 cases from yesterday. Oahu has 68 cases, Maui 13, Kauai 5 and the Big Island 5. Four cases are pending results. There are no fatalities from COVID-19.

State stay-at-home/work-from-home in effect

Hawaii is under a stay-at-home order as the number of coronavirus cases mount in the community. Gov. David Ige's emergency proclamation took effect at 12:01 a.m. today and runs through April 30, requiring everyone to stay home unless they are deemed essential workers.

Essential employees include those who work in health care, food establishments, grocery stores, education, restaurants offering takeout, and critically needed government agencies.

People can shop for food and other supplies. They can go outside for exercise but must maintain at least a six-foot distance from others. Otherwise, they must remain inside.

Police were directed to enforce the order. Violations will amount to misdemeanors with a maximum fine of $5,000 and a year in jail.

No death from coronavirus, state says

State health officials erred when they declared Hawaii's first death from the coronavirus. The health department issued a press release last night saying that a re-test of the case turned up negative for COVID-19.

“I accept all responsibility for not verifying reporting procedures," said Health Director Bruce Anderson. "We’re immediately instituting measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again. My condolences to the family and friends of the person who passed away and our apologies for any undue anxiety this caused.”

The department said the internal communication of a COVID-19 test conducted by its state lab resulted in a report being misread.

Anderson said the department's focus was to issue information in a timely manner. This is an unprecedented situation and the department is still developing best practices, he said.

The health department had said earlier that an Oahu adult who had multiple underlying conditions died of the coronavirus on March 20. 

The victim had "potential, indirect travel-related exposure," the department said. The individual had been admitted to the hospital on March 19 and was tested through a commercial laboratory on the same day. The results came back after the death, and were not conclusive.

Swabs from the person were then submitted to the state laboratories two days after the person died and the results were said to have confirmed COVID-19.

Yesterday, however, health officials say they were re-testing because there may have been an issue with the state lab test. The negative results announced last night mean Hawaii has no known deaths from the coronavirus.

The number of Hawaii's coronavirus cases, meanwhile, took another jump yesterday. They now stand at 90, up 14 from the previous day. Honolulu has 58, Maui 9, Hawaii Island 2, and Kauai 1. Cases involving non-Hawaii residents number 11, international residents amount to 3 and 6 cases are pending, according to the health department's latest update.

In-person public school classes rescheduled to April 30

The reopening of Hawaii's public schools has been rescheduled to April 30th. Schools were originally expected to return on April 7.

The state and counties stay-at-home orders in the wake of the spreading coronavirus prompted the new date for the opening of schools.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto told state senators yesterday that instructional time for students will need to be made up.

“If we stay closed beyond April 7, it was a clear line in the sand that said we would need to make up instructional time after that. We're going to have to figure out what that additional instruction time means,” she said.

That could mean providing waivers to what's a typical year and moving on to next year with additional supports rather than using the summer to make up time lost. “We probably don't have enough days in the summer,” she said.

Kishimoto said to keep the entire school system open for an additional month, the department would need about an extra $5 million.

Over the next 30 days, it will be up to teachers and school staff to reach out to families individually, checking that students are doing online assignments or, for those without internet access, picking up their instructional packets from school.

Kishimoto says that’s the best way to keep track of students and make sure vulnerable students are not lost.

The department is expected to roll out a specific plan for instruction and graduation requirements later this week. 

State contraflow, high-occupancy vehicle lanes suspended 

The state Department of Transportation is suspending contraflow and high-occupancy vehicle lanes starting today as traffic on state highways is reduced under stay-at-home/work from home orders.

Workers statewide are under an emergency order to remain at home except to shop for groceries, for example, unless they are essential employees.

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 developments in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus. You can call our talkback line at 808-792-8217. Or e-mail us at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.