Updated: 6/18/2020, 7:58 p.m.
The Hawaii Department of Health reported 27 new cases of COVID-19 today, the largest single-day spike since early April. Twenty-five are on Oahu and one each on Maui and Kauai. State officials sought to ease worries brought on by the high numbers.
“Despite our recent spike in cases, all of our testing and contact tracing procedures are working exactly as intended. Additional cases are being identified and added to the case count as a result of aggressive investigations, contact tracing and testing of household contacts,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson in a news release.
Twenty-two of the new cases are adults and five are children. The majority of the new cases in recent days are related to clusters in large households with crowded conditions, adult care and long-term nursing facilities as well as home gatherings.
One of the clusters was described as a faith community in Waipahu, having a gathering in a home. The health department said as many as 35 recent cases may be tied to this gathering.
In Wahiawa, five new cases are believed to be associated with several adult care homes located on the same property.
Health officials are most concerned, however, about a cluster at the state's largest skilled nursing facility, Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, where many elderly live.
According to the facility's website, seven residents and five staff workers have tested positive for the coronavirus. Five of the residents have been hospitalized and two remain in Hale Nani in an isolation unit.
Staff members are self-isolating at home and won't return to work until medically cleared. All residents and staff of units where there were positive cases are being retested tomorrow and a second round of testing is scheduled next week.
State Epidemiologist Sarah Park said virtually all of the newly reported cases are due to community-spread, often within a group setting, rather than being travel-related.
Park said there is no evidence that recent protests, referring to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, have led to the recent spike in cases. "Nonetheless, we continue to strongly encourage physical distancing and use of face masks when people are engaged inn practicing First Amendment rights, or while in any other large gatherings, with people who don't live in the same household," she said.
Today's 27 new cases follows Thursday's 18 new cases, Wednesday's 5 cases; Tuesday's 4 cases; Mondayʻs 8 cases; Sunday's 5 new cases, Saturday's 17 cases and last Friday's 15 infections.
After adjusting the numbers based on updated information, the state reported as of today 789 total cases of COVID-19. The number of deaths stood at 17.
The case count for Oahu stands at 551, Maui County at 121, Hawaii County at 83 and Kauai County at 22. Kauai County's new case is the first additional case on the island since early April.
Twelve people had been diagnosed out of state. Some 642 people had been released from isolation.
In another case, the state House of Representatives leaders confirmed that a person working at the Capitol tested positive for COVID-19. They say the person wore a mask at work and stayed home when symptoms developed so "the risk of infecction to others is low."
The state Legislature is scheduled to reconvene on Monday, although the Capitol building will remain closed to the public.
The state Joint Information Center also confirmed media reports of three employees of Doraku restaurant in Waikiki testing positive. The workers are from one household and the restaurant has been closed for cleaning, according to the reports.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said a cluster was identified in Waianae based on information from the health department. Officials have corrected that information to say the cluster of 5 cases is in Wahiawa.
Oahu bars, gyms opening today
Bars, gyms and other businesses can reopen beginning today on Oahu, facing some of the hardest challenges in maintaining social distancing and other safety guidelines.
The bars, including karaoke rooms and cocktail lounges, can resume operations but under guidelines designed to minimize the spread of COVID-19. They can open only half of their allowed maximum occupancy and groups in bars are limited to 10 people. The parties need to be separated by six feet.
Employees that interact with customers will need to wear face coverings all the time. Customers are required to wear them when entering or leaving the bar, but not when they are inside.
Sanitation requirements for the bars are similar to restaurants, which were allowed to open June 5. Tables and chairs need to be fully sanitized after each group leaves and condiments served in single-use packets or their containers wiped down between parties.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell has said that the city will be using liquor inspectors to ensure the rules are enforced.
Yesterday's Hawaii Updates: 18 New Cases; 10 Test Positive At Hale Nani; 2nd Resident Arrested in Quarantine Case
Gyms, spas, dance studios, hula halau and others can also resume business starting today. They can open up 50% of their maximum occupancy and will need to maintain six-foot distances between individuals.
Also starting today, indoor gatherings can include up to 50 people while outdoor gatherings can have up to 100 people.
Organized team sports will also resume today, although only for practice and with a maximum of 30 players. On July 3, the teams can resume competitive play.
Pearl Harbor National Memorial to reopen in phases
The National Park Service announced it will begin incremental opening of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial starting today. Visitors can see the park's two museums and wayside exhibits and view Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial from the harbor.
Access to the Arizona memorial will resume at a later date, the park service said in a news release.
“As we approach the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we’re proud to resume limited operations at Pearl Harbor National Memorial so we can continue to share the history of the events leading up to, including and following December 7, 1941 along with the stories of the brave American men and women who served, suffered and sacrificed on that infamous day," said Acting Superintendent Kathi Palacio.
More information is available on the National Park Service's Pearl Harbor memorial website. Information on the Battleship Missouri Memorial and other Pearl Harbor historic sites can be found on the historic sites website.
AUW report: Many in ALICE population haven't progressed much
Aloha United Way today released its latest status report on some of the most vulnerable among Hawaii’s population – and it shows many did not recover from the Great Recession.
The population now numbers about 165,000 – but the report suggests it could increase by 35,000 households due to COVID-19.
The report evaluates those who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed -- also known as the ALICE population.
Lisa Kimura, the vice president of community impact at Aloha United Way, says ALICE households had not progressed much -- even before the pandemic.
“Some of the most interesting highlights that are being released today are that unfortunately, a lot of our Hawaii residents have never recovered ever since the Great Recession in 2008," she said. "The data that we found when we released the last report have stayed quite static in terms of the number of households that are negatively impacted and are suffering financial hardship.”
She says the latest coronavirus emergency has likely made their situations worse.
Kimura said Aloha United Way created a COVID-19 response fund and introduced programs to help with housing and utilities.
The ALICE report can be found on the Aloha United Way website.
--HPR's Amy Nakamura
Attorney General working on public health emergency legislation
Attorney General Clare Connors is drafting a bill that would allow the health director to declare a public health emergency.
The legislation is aimed at giving the health director the authority to take action addressing health threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In the current emergency, it has been the governor who has issued emergency orders, including the proclamation establishing the mandatory 14-day quarantine for passengers arriving from out of state.
The measure would establish a traveler screening fund to pay for the screening of arrivals. Connors said part of the transient accommodations tax would be diverted into the fund. Fees imposed for violations of the quarantine would also go into the pot.
State continues to chip away at unemployment claims backlog
The state has paid out $1,577,182,720 in claims since the start of the pandemic, according to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations,
DLIR Deputy Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio said 90 percent of the valid unemployment insurance claims that were submitted have been processed and paid out.
Nonetheless, 153,382 valid claims still await action by the department.
Perreira-Eustaquio said the department is having trouble getting return calls from employers and applicants to resolve claims.
"“If you are an employer or worker involved in the unemployment insurance program, please note that both (833) 901-2272 and (833) 901-2275 is the department trying to reach you to process claims,” she said.
Wednesday saw 1,516 passenger arrivals
A total of 1,516 people arrived in the islands Wednesday, including 418 visitors and 471 returning residents. Tourists continue to come despite the 14-day mandatory quarantine that remains in effect through July.
Others in the total arrivals numbers include 189 crew members, 95 travelers in transit, 143 military, 104 exempted from quarantine by the state and 96 who say they are relocating to the islands.
Kauai launches new program to assist in rent, mortgage, utilities
Qualified Kauai residents can apply for up to $1,500 per month over a maximum of three months to help cover housing and utility expenses.
Low to moderate-income residents who have lost income due to COVID-19 are eligible to apply, said Mayor Derek Kawakami.
Family Life Center and Mālama Pono Health Services are administering the program. Family Life Center can be reached at (808) 212-0850 and Mālama Pono Health Services at (808) 246-9577.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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