Hawaii Updates: While State Holds Back, City Moves To Reopen; More Testing; Maui Memorial Cases Jump

Apr 22, 2020

Updated: 4/22/2020, 12:24 p.m.

Six new coronavirus cases brings the state's total today to 592, according to the state Department of Health's latest update. The number of deaths stands at 12 since tracking began in late February.

Oahu case count is now 388, Maui County 110, Hawaii Island 67, and Kauai 21. No cases are pending determination of county and six were diagnosed out of state.

Yesterday, the state reported two more coronavirus-related deaths. Both deaths involve men who were 65 years old or older. One, an Oahu man with underlying health conditions, was hospitalized in late March. Although he appeared to get better and was discharged, his health declined and he passed away at home.

The second death is a Maui case that brings to two the number of fatalities related to Maui Memorial Medical Center. In the latest case, the man had underlying health conditions and had been at the hospital since late last year.

Maui Memorial has 36 staff and 20 patients under investigation as potentially associated with the hospital's cluster, the department said in a news release yesterday.

City moves to reopen, starting with parks

The City and County of Honolulu is taking initial steps to reopen – the first county in the state to move in that direction. While Gov. David Ige has said that it's too early, Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced yesterday he is allowing access to the city parks for some activities starting on Saturday.

The mayor is also extending the city’s stay-at-home order through the end of May, although he plans to adjust it over time until it is fully lifted.

Caldwell said he met with a panel of medical and mental health professionals to discuss reopening the city. He said the panel’s first recommendation was to restore access to city parks.

"Coming this Saturday, at 5 in the morning, you can go into the parks to exercise only. What does that mean? It means the parking lots will be open, so you can drive into the park and park to do your exercise. And exercise means running, jogging, walking and bike riding only. It’s not about having a picnic, no large gatherings – no gatherings," the mayor said.

 

"We really want it to be you going into the park, practicing good social distancing, wearing a mask. It’s not going to be open for basketball or baseball or volleyball, or tennis or the gym."

 

Caldwell said the public is still prohibited from using playground or gym equipment because of safety concerns.

Yesterday's Hawaii Updates: Two More Deaths; Visitors Arrested In Quarantine Case; Gov: Not Ready For Reopening

He said his administration will consider re-opening other city facilities, depending on factors like coronavirus test results.

The mayor pointed to a declining number of new coronavirus cases on Oahu in taking steps to reopen the city. Oahu's case count stood at 385 yesterday with no new cases reported. 

--HPR's Casey Harlow

More Oahu testing planned at health centers

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants to ramp up coronavirus testing on Oahu. And he’s using the island’s community health centers to do it.

The city purchased about 10,000 COVID-19 tests for the health centers.

Caldwell says results from the newly purchased tests will come back within 48 hours.

 

"I think it really is about not being passive, but being more aggressive, not waiting to see if someone gets sick and then asked to be tested, but going out and finding who's sick, because if you don't look for it, you can't see it," the mayor said. "And if you can't see it, you can't prepare for it. And if we're going to start opening up, we need to be prepared for it. So we need to do a lot more testing."

The tests will cost the city about $2 million.

Before COVID-19, the funds were to be used for replenishing sand at Ala Moana Beach Park. 

Caldwell also says a small Waikiki hotel has offered to house COVID-19-infected people who can’t isolate from others in their own homes.

He says hotel workers there will be given protection against the virus.

Correction: A previous version of this story said a community health center was affiliated with the Wahiawa General Hospital. A hospital spokesman said there is no affiliation.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo

 

Maui mayor: County police won't cite beach walkers, runners

Mayor Michael Victorino said Maui County police will not issue citations to those walking or running on the beaches, this despite Gov. David Ige's order closing state beaches and banning those activities.

He also said he hasn't decided whether to extend his stay-at-home order as Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has announced he will do through May with the goal of eventually lifting it. Victorino said he will probably make an announcement later this week after consulting with the state. He believes the mayors will be speaking with the governor today to talk about the issue. 

Maui County has had 110 cases of the coronavirus and 5 deaths.

"I think it’s important we hear that we are not out of the woods yet. We’re getting better, we’re getting closer,"
Victorino said. He added the county is looking at recovery in a methodical way based on health care information.

On the beaches, Victorino said after consulting with the county counsel, he has directed police not to cite those exercising along the shoreline because there is no clear delineation between areas under state control and those under county jurisdiction.

The state has general control from the high water mark or upper wash of the waves toward the ocean, but mayor said that line changes with different conditions.

He said while people can walk or run on the beaches, he asked they observe proper social distancing and refrain from congregating on the beaches or lying or sitting on the sand, activities which could draw a citation.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

Maui Memorial cases now at 56, McDonald's cluster at 32

The investigation of coronavirus cases connected to the Maui Memorial Medical Center has grown to cover 56 people, with 36 staff members and 20 patients testing positive, the state health department said yesterday.

Lorrin Pang, the state's Maui district health officer, said the jump in cases is the result of expanded testing. Speaking at Maui Mayor Michael Victorino's daily video briefing, he said between 90 to 100 workers and about 220 patients have been tested. 

He said he would not be surprised if more cases emerge and that the cluster might continue on for quite a while. 

Meanwhile, the cases surrounding three McDonald's restaurants in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island grew to 32 people. Nineteen employees and 13 household contacts have tested positve. No customers have been identified as testing positive.

--HPR News Staff

Lanai food distribution, testing today

Bags of produce will be distributed on Lanai today to families impacted by COVID-19 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis.

The drive-through, grab and go distribution is set at the county parking lot between the county  gym and school cafeteria. Enter from 6th Street, turn left on Fraser Avenue, and right into the parking lot. 

A distribution for seniors is scheduled at 11 a.m. today at the Lanai Senior Center. Enter from Gay Street. Bags of produce wil also be delivered to Lanai kupuna through the Meals on Wheels program. 

Drive-through testing by appointment is set for Saturday in Lanai City from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the back parking lot of rhe old Dole Administration Building. Approach the testing site via Queen Street, then enter the old Dole Administration Building rear parking lot from the 7th Street side.

To make an appointment, call the Straub Medical Center Lanai Clinic at 565-6423 or the Lanai Community Health Center at 565-6919. Testing is also available at Straub and the Lanai community clinics, Monday to Saturday.

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.