The Latest: 1 Death, 101 Cases; Maui To Accept One-Test Travel Plan, Kauai Holds Out For 2nd Test

Oct 8, 2020

Updated: 10/8/2020, 12:10 p.m.

The Hawaii Department of Health today reported one new death from COVID-19 and 101 new cases. The latest statewide case count brought the total number of infections to 13,146 since the pandemic began. Deaths total 164. 

There have now been 11,788 cases on Oahu (86 new cases), 866 on Hawaii Island (14 new cases), 397 for Maui County (1 new case), and 59 on Kauai County (no new cases). Those diagnosed out of state stood at 36. 

Yesterday's 7-day average positivity rate stood at 2.6% statewide, 3.1% on Oahu, 2.9% on Hawaii Island, 0% on Kauai, and 0.3% on Maui.

Yesterday's three deaths were all Oahu men. They had underlying medical conditions and had been hospitalized. Two were in their 70s and the third in his 60s.

Hilo Medical Center yesterday reported two more COVID-19 deaths yesterday, bringing the total number of community deaths to five. The two deaths occurred Tuesday and yesterday. Nine COVID patients are hospitalized, including two in the ICU.

The deaths are separate from the fatalities at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home, 27 of whose residents have died and where 106 residents and staff have tested positive for COVID.

The Life Care Center of Hilo reported one more resident and two other staff have tested positive. That brings the number of residents testing positive to 32 and staff testing positive to nine. Over the past weekend, two people died at the facility.

Testing continues today at the University of Nations in Kailua-Kona, where about 30 students and staff have tested positive in one of the largest clusters on the island.

Maui moving ahead with one-test travel program, Kauai holding back

Maui County plans to participate in the state's program waiving the 14-day quarantine for travelers who get a negative COVID-19 test before arriving starting next week. Kauai maintains a second test is safer, shipping in thousands of tests for visitors and returning residents.

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino wanted a second test for visitors after they come to the islands, but he said the state won't agree to it and Maui businesses are struggling.

Maui joins Oahu in reopening to tourism under the pre-test program. Hawaii County has opted out of it, according to Mayor Harry Kim. Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami says his county is planning for a second test.

Health Director Libby Char took the mayor's side at a press conference yesterday. She says the department supports additional testing because the effectiveness of a single test ranges widely.

"Some denote that the initial tests will catch 20% of incoming disease, other tests," she said. "Other studies have shown up to 80%. So it's really quite varied." 

She described the data on second tests as not robust.

"Some places show that if the first test [were] to catch about two-thirds of it, that the second test would then pick up a remaining percentage, so that you'd end up catching about 70 or 80% of disease coming in."

Lt. Gov. Josh Green is proposing an additional test but only for 10% of travelers. They would be chosen randomly as part of a surveillance program to learn if many visitors test positive.

He says the plan is still being finalized.

Victorino said in a news release that he is looking forward to learning more about the state's surveillance testing and its contact tracing app.

But the county plans to open up nonetheless.

“The State has made it clear that they want to move forward with the pre-travel testing program, without the second test,” Mayor Victorino said. “Many of our businesses and working families are struggling, so we are moving forward with the transpacific program."

Kawakami said in his daily video update that Kauai still believes that its second-test proposal rejected by Gov. David Ige achieves the goal of opening up responsibly. He said that is just what infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended.

Kawakami said the county expects to receive 15,000 tests this week that it can use on arrivals. 

"With just a week before the October 15 deadline, we are working hard with our own health officials, partners at the state and county, our visitor industry, and other stakeholders to find a path forward that helps to protect the health, safety, and well-being of our residents," Kawakami said.

The state has approved more providers of the travel tests and their costs. The list can be found at hawaiicovid19.com.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo

Oahu hotels must return workers to jobs under council bill

The Honolulu City Council is weighing a measure that would require Oahu hotels to bring back their employees based on occupancy.

This comes as the state prepares to welcome back visitors. But hotel managers object to the proposal.

Springboard Hospitality Vice President Rob Robinson says the measure is a vast overreach by government.

"Hotels that are governed by a collective bargaining agreement should bargain with their union over these matters – just as they would in any other employment related issues," he said. "Certain terms of employment in a private business should not be dictated by this council, or any other body of government for that matter. Additionally, the proposed methodology for recalling workers to coincide with a percentage of occupancy is not in fact a real world business practice."

He said while some positions in a hotel may be scheduled based on occupancy – like housekeeping or the front desk – that does not apply to other workers.

Bill 80 would require hotels to recall employees back to their positions based on occupancy prior to March 1st. It would also require hotels to clean and sanitize occupied rooms every day.

Bill 80 passed first reading, with objections from council members Carol Fukunaga, Heidi Tsuneyoshi and Brandon Elefante.

The measure will next be discussed at the council’s executive matters committee meeting later this month.

--HPR's Casey Harlow