The Latest: 100 New Cases; Turnout Highest In 26 Years; Caldwell, Ige Want Mask Policy Changes

Nov 5, 2020

Updated: 11/5/2020, 3:37 p.m.

 

The state Department of Health reported no deaths and 100 new COVID-19 cases today. The total infections since the pandemic began now number 15,572.

 

Oahu had 66 new cases, Hawaii County 24, Maui 1, Lanai 1, Kauai 1 and Molokai none. There were 7 new cases diagnosed out of state. The death toll stands at 219.

 

There have been 13,510 cases on Oahu, 1,356 on Hawaii Island, 415 on Maui, 105 on Lanai, 68 on Kauai, and 17 on Molokai. There have been 101 cases diagnosed out of state.

On Lanai, a stay-at-home order remains in effect after an outbreak that stemmed from large gatherings and household transmission.

About 400 people Lanai on the island were tested Saturday in a second round of surge screening at the old Dole Administration Building, according to Maui County.

Results from the two surge testing events are expected to increase the island's case count as they are reported. A third surge testing event is scheduled for Saturday.

General election produces best turnout since 1994

Hawaii recorded its highest general election voter turnout since 1994, with 69.6% of registered voters casting ballots by Tuesday, according to the state Office of Elections. The high turnout reversed four years of declining voter participation.

While the turnout is cause to celebrate, long lines of people waiting to vote in person at Honolulu Hale and Kapolei Hale Tuesday night delayed the election results by four hours. The last-minute voters queued up for hours -- many without social distancing -- for a chance to cast ballots.

Until those lines were cleared, officials said they would not release the results. Officials released the first printout at around 11 p.m.

Opening more voter service centers may not solve the delays seen at the two locations on Oahu to cast ballots in person, according to Honolulu City Clerk Glen Takahashi.

Over 4,500 Oahu voters showed up at the voter service centers on Election Day. Lines also developed at voter service centers on the Neighbor Islands.

The good government group Common Cause Hawaii says the delays could have been avoided if the state heeded its call for more service centers.

Takahashi said yesterday that the solution is not so simple.

The service centers didn’t experience high foot traffic during the primary election and the days leading up to Tuesday, he said.

"How do you allocate the proper amount of resources with that kind of really wide-varying usage data? And that’s the challenge that we as administrators are in. We’ve got to scale it properly," he said.

"But it may not be formula-based. It could be with the types of equipment we employ or putting out a couple more extra computers or whatnot. So, the solution is nuanced, and not based upon a simple formula. You know, that add two more, you’ll be fine -- I think if we just go on that kind of simplistic way, you know, we could make things worse, actually."

Takahashi said the turnout at both locations on Election Day was unprecedented. But he plans to discuss the issue with his team and seek solutions for future elections.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

Mayor calls for vigilance, stricter mask policy as COVID-19 cases spike

 

People on Oahu are backsliding in keeping the number of COVID-19 cases in check.

 

New daily cases statewide jumped to a 156 yesterday -- and a 125 of them were on Oahu.

 

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says residents need to do better.

 

He called yesterday for a change in the mask policy so that everyone would be required to wear a face covering, whether they are six feet apart or not.

 

"Why do I consider this? Number one -- it's to address the issues we see in Waikiki about confusion with visitors saying, 'Well, I have to have it on when I'm close, but not when it's not.' And local folks drive by or walk by and say, 'Eh -- I'm wearing my face covering. You're not. If you're not, why should I?'" he said.

 

"We want everyone to wear their face coverings. Dr. [Anthony] Fauci says it's the next best thing to the vaccine and I believe it."

 

A new Hawaii law is needed to contend with people who ignore mask mandates implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. David Ige said.

Ige called for citations similar to tickets written for minor traffic infractions, which carry fines but are not treated as criminal offenses, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

All four of Hawaii's counties have emergency mask mandates and violating them is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

“Right now, under emergency proclamations, the only penalty we can use to urge people to comply is a misdemeanor with a fine. And what happens is that makes it a criminal penalty, and those who want to contest the citation (are) entitled to a jury trial,” Ige said.

Ige proposed a new law concerning face coverings so people would have an option of paying or contesting fines without a jury trial.

The 2021 session of the state Legislature is scheduled to begin in January. Ige said he is unlikely to request a special session before then to change procedures and penalties for mask violations. 

If cases continue to rise, Oahu will remain longer under the current Tier 2 reopening restrictions or it could slip back to the more restrictive Tier 1 stage.

 

Caldwell had hoped that, with fewer cases, the city could move on to the next tier and lift more restrictions.

 

Tier 3 would allow gatherings of up to 10 people in homes and restaurants, among other easing of limitations aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.

 

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro; Associated Press

 

 

City up against deadline to distribute financial aid

 

The city is running out of time to give out financial aid to Oahu residents impacted by COVID-19.

 

Officials launched the Household Hardship Relief Fund in May. But they've distributed only a part of the program's $25 million in CARES Act funds.

 

Mayor Kirk Caldwell acknowledged yesterday that the city needs to push out more of the assistance to those who need it.

 

"As of last week, we had expended about $6 million out of $25 million. I think we helped somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 individuals. You know, we still have a lot of money to spend in the next two months. And people really need that help and we got to figure out ways to get it to them -- in a more quick way."

 

The city later updated the figures for applications approved to 5,735 and total payments made to $6.7 million.

 

The mayor said the program is not moving quickly because it requires a lot of paperwork. Recipients need to produce tax papers, pay stubs and other documents to qualify for the help. 

 

But if the city doesn't use up the funds, it'll be forced to return whatever remains to the federal government.

 

The program covers rent, mortgage, child care and other expenses up to $2,000 per month.

 

For more information, go to the city's Department of Community Services website and click on Household Hardship Relief Program link.

 

Correction: A previous version of this story had another number for Oahu cases rather than 13,510 now reported.