The Latest: 1 Death, 200 New Cases; Feds OK $300 Added Jobless Benefit; DOE: 20 More Positive Cases

Aug 30, 2020

Updated: 8/30/2020, 12:05 p.m.

  

Hawaii Department of Health today reported 1 death and 200 new cases of COVID-19. The latest case count brings the state's total to 8,339 and deaths to 63.

Of the new cases, 174 are on Oahu, 22 on Hawaii Island, and 4 in Maui County. None of the new cases are on Kauai.

With the newest cases, the total COVID-19 counts stand at 7,584 on Oahu, 334 in Maui County, 340 on Hawaii Island and 57 on Kauai. 

Yesterday, there were three deaths and 310 new COVID-19 cases, one of the largest increases since the pandemic began. 

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said yesterday in his daily Instagram video that he's concerned about the Big Island cases. He said 17 out of 24 Intensive care unit beds on the island were occupied, a couple of them with COVID patients. He also said 17 individuals were in the hospital in Hilo, which represents a large increase for the island.

Green called the current postivity rate of about 10% a significant number, one that is monitored to gauge whether cases are coming down. He said 272 indiviuals are hospitalized, a number that he said is stable.

"So keep our fingers crossed that that number begins to drop as we've been in the stay-at-home order," Green said. He urged people to wear masks and avoid any groups.

A stay-at-home order is in effect for Oahu that runs until Sept. 9. The order, which closes non-essential businesses and keeps residents mainly at home, may be extended if the high numbers of COVID-19 cases don't decline.

On Friday, four deaths were reported. Three of the deaths were Oahu residents and one a Maui resident. Two of the Oahu fatalities were men who had been hospitalized with underlying conditions. One was 70 to 79 years old and the other was older than 80 years old. The third Oahu death was a woman, age 70 to 79, also hospitalized with underlying conditions. 

The Maui death was a woman over 80, who was hospitalized with underlying health conditions.

Gov. David Ige has cautioned that as results return from the surge testing underway, there will be increases in the number of new positive cases. The free, open-to-all tests are funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and will be available at various locations around Oahu. Officials are aiming to test 5,000 people daily for 14 days.

No symptoms, doctor's order or quarantines pending results are required, but officials urge those who want to be tested to register at doineedacovid19test.com. Check the site for times and locations. 

A major testing event is scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday on the H-3 Freeway, from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on each day. The H-3 will be closed in both directions to accommodate the screening. Drivers will need to take the Likelike Highway or Pali Highway during the closures.

Among the latest cases:

• Thirty more Oahu Community Correctional Center inmates and 4 OCCC staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, the state Department of Public Safety reported yesterday. This brings the total number of OCCC inmates testing positive to 286, 78 who are active, and for staff up to 57, 45 of whom are active.

None of the inmates are hospitalized but as of Aug. 24, three adult correctional officers were hospitalized and a fourth, while not confirmed, was reported to be hospitalized, a department spokeswoman said by email.

Halawa Correctional Facility also reported one additional staff member testing positive. One inmate and one staff earlier tested positive. All three are active.

Meanwhile, another 29 inmates were released yesterday, including 8 on Kauai, 5 on Oahu and 16 on Maui. The inmates are being released under a Hawaii Supreme Court order to allow certain inmates to be let go from state correctional facilities because of COVID-19 and overcrowding.

• Another TheBus driver has tested positive for COVID-19, the operator of the city's bus and handivan system said yesterday. The driver was last at work last Sunday, Aug. 23, but was on leave since Monday because of a family member's positive test result. The driver did not have symptoms until Wednesday. The individual did not have prolonged contact with riders and employees, according to the city. 

• Yesterday's new case for Kauai is an island resident currently on Oahu who tested positive for COVID-19. Health officials said the resident has been on Oahu for several weeks. Kauai officials said the individual poses no risk to Kauai residents and no Kauai close contacts have been identified. The new case brought Kauai's case count to 57.

Feds approve $300 benefit for unemployed but recipients may need to wait

The state has received approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide $300 a week in additional unemployment benefits to jobless workers, although it may be weeks before it gets into the hands of recipients.

The benefit amounts to $200 million for Hawaii in new federal CARES Act funds, according to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. The Lost Wages Assistance Program benefit will partially replace the weekly $600 Plus Up unemployment payment that expired at the end of July.

Gov. David Ige did not immediately apply for the $300 a week benefit when first announced by the Trump administration after Congress deadlocked over additional federal assistance.

Ige said at the time he wanted more information before seeking the aid. But he then applied for the benefit and, yesterday, announced the request had been approved.

"We pursued the additional funds because we know the added $300 per week will help many in our community who are struggling. I have directed the [labor] department to implement the program as quickly as possible while maintaining the program's integrity," he said in a statement.

The state Department of Labor is awaiting federal guidance on how to administer the program, according to the department's website. 

The Lost Wages Assistance program provides eligible claimants the $300 benefit from the week of unemployment ending Aug. 1. But adjusting the department's computer system and online application to accommodate the new benefit could take weeks. The benefit would be applied retroactively to claimants' weeks of unemployment.

The department, which has been struggling to fully clear a backlog of jobless claims, expects another flood of applicants with the second stay-at-home order imposed on Oahu last Thursday. The order is in effect for two weeks, but could be extended if COVID-19 infections remain high.

DOE reports 20 more COVID-19 infections

In its latest weekly summary of coronavirus cases at public schools, the state Department of Education reported nine employees, four service providers, five students and two parents have tested positive. The casess cover Aug. 22-28. 

The DOE does not name the schools impacted, only their complex areas. The department cites federal privacy rules for the secrecy, although school districts in other parts of the country disclose schools by name, according to The New York Times.

Positive cases for the latest week included two employees and one student in the Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani complex; one employee in the Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt complex; 2 employees in the Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua complex; 2 students in the same household in the Nanakuli-Waianae complex; 1 student in the  Baldwin-Kekaulike-Maui complex; 1 employee and 1 student in the same household in the Hana-Lahainaluna-Lanai-Molokai complex; and 1 employee in the Hilo-Waiakea complex.

There was also 1 parent in the Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani complex, 1 service provider in the Campbell-Kapolei and Pearl City-Waipahu complexes; 1 service provider in the Nanakuli-Waianae complex; 2 service providers in the Campbell-Kapolei complex; 2 employees at the Kapolei Juvenile Detention Facility; and 1 parent in the Campbell-Kapolei complex.

The week's cases bring the total number of infections at DOE facilities to 49.

This is a developing story. Please check back for upates. 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.