The Latest: 2 More Deaths, 152 Cases; Governor OKs Rollback On Interisland Travel, Oahu Reopening

Aug 6, 2020

Updated: 8/6/2020, 6:22 p.m.

Starting Tuesday, the 14-day mandatory quarantine for interisland travel will be reinstated, Gov. David Ige announced today. Restrictions on Oahu also will return, including closure of city and state parks and beaches starting tomorrow at midnight and extending to Sept. 4.

Ige initially said at a press conference today that the interisland travel quarantine would affect all islands, but after discussions with state Attorney General Clare Connors, the governor limited the reach of his order to travelers arriving on Maui, Kauai, Hawaii Island and Kalawao counties. The quarantine is set to expire at the end of the month, but could be extended.

The rollbacks follow successive days of triple-digit counts of new COVID-19 cases, most of them on Oahu. Health care leaders warned that unless the case count is controlled, hospitals would be overwhelmed by coronavirus cases in a month.

Oahu's restrictions under Caldwell's "Act With Care – Do Not Gather" order will allow gyms to operate, but without exercise classes, and restaurants can remain open but cooks will need to wear face masks.

Team sports in parks will be suspended through Sept. 5 and all bowling alleys, arcades and mini-golf locations will be closed.

Those who swim, surf, fish and otherwise use the ocean for permitted activities can cross the parks to get to the water under the mayor's order, but then need to leave after they are done.

Honolulu police will scale up to enforce the order, said Police Chief Susan Ballard, with fewer warnings and more citations and arrests.

HPD will create an enforcement hotline starting on Sunday for COVID-related complaints. The hotline number is 723-3900.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo and Casey Harlow

Where we stand

The state Department of Health today reported two deaths from COVID-19, bringing the state total to 29, and 152 new cases. One of the deaths is an elderly female with underlying medical conditions. She had been a resident at a Pearl City nursing home and was hospitalized. The other death is an elderly man, also described as having health issues, who was in a hospital when he died. The state's daily case count was delayed because of a problem with reporting from a private clinical lab. 

 

Yesterday, 173 new COVID-19 cases were tallied. All cases are on Oahu and reflect another triple-digit day of new infections.

The state's total case count stands as of yesterday at 2,763. Out of that total, 2,394 cases are on Oahu, 177 in Maui County, 122 in Hawaii County, and 47 in Kauai County. There have been 23 residents diagnosed outside of the state, 214 people hospitalized and 27 deaths. One Maui case was removed from the counts due to updated information.

On Tuesday, the department reported the 27th death. The Honolulu man, between 40 to 59 years old, had underlying medical conditions. The man's death was reported to the health department by the Honolulu medical examiner. An investigation into his cause of death continues but it is being recorded as a COVID-19 fatality. 

Earlier this week, the health department reported several clusters, including 71 cases linked to a series of funeral events, 12 cases tied to a birthday party and 6 cases associated with a hot yoga class. 

The rising case numbers are a factor in ongoing debates about whether to delay both the scheduled start of public schools on Aug. 17 and the reopening of trans-Pacific travel beginning on Sept. 1 to those who test negative.

Among the new cases and developments:

• A Hawaii County fire department battalion chief stationed at the Waikoloa Fire Station has tested positive for the coronavirus. Five asymptomatic station employees are in self-quarantine as a precaution. The battalion chief, who showed no symptoms, took a COVID-19 test on Saturday to comply with pre- and post-travel requirements to Oahu. On Monday, he received the positive results. The station has been disinfected and the five employees will receive tests over the next two weeks. They must receive negative tests in order to return to work, following the department's protocols.

• A state deputy sheriff has tested positive for COVID-19, the first employee of the Department of Public Safety confirmed to have the virus. There have been no positive cases among the prison population, DPS said in a news release. The employee reported not feeling well after work on Monday night and did not work on Tuesday. He reported the positive test yesterday morning. All employees in the Special Operations Section building where he worked were instructed to go home and check with their doctor. The building will be closed, cleaned and disinfected. All arrest processing and bookings will be conducted at the Sheriff Division Airport Section Booking Station.

• A positive case has been reported at a Hilo dialysis center, the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said in news release. The state Department of Health and the County of Hawaii Task Force are working with the Liberty Dialysis administration in responding to the incident, the agency said. There have been screening and testing of those who could have been infected. About 200 people have already been tested as of Tuesday. The dialysis facilities is being disinfected, officials say.

Impose restrictions or hospital system will be overwhelmed, healthcare leaders warn

Hawaii’s hospital intensive care unit capacity will be overwhelmed by the end of the month if officials don’t take immediate action to keep COVID-19 infections from surging. That’s the urgent warning from healthcare leaders.

They are calling for more restrictions, and quickly, to slow the spread of the virus before the state’s medical system hits capacity.

"If our infection rate continues at the rate it is increasing right now, we will run out of ICU beds in Hawaii before the end of this month," said Hilton Raethel, president of Healthcare Association, which represents hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

"Now, that is very, very concerning for us. Now we can expand beds. We can convert other beds into ICU beds, for example. But one of the biggest limitations we have is personnel. We have a finite number of doctors. We have a finite number of therapists, we have a finite number of nurses. And if we exceed that capacity, we may have beds for patients, [but] we may not have the people to take care of them."

Raethel says immediate action must be taken in the next day or two to slow the spread, but he says it is up to state and county officials to decide how that’s done.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green, an emergency room physician, says at least two Oahu hospitals are already reaching their ICU capacity. He says one of the hospitals has only two ICU beds left.

The hospitals aren’t even feeling the effects yet of the recent string of triple-digit daily infections. That’s because it often takes several days for people’s symptoms to become more severe and require hospitalization.

"It is up to the governor or mayors as to what they're going to do. But if they were to make changes today, we would not see the impact of that for another 12 to 14 days, which means that the number of hospitalizations we get over the next two weeks is already determined based on what has been happening in the last week or so.

"So we cannot change the trajectory of what happens in the next two weeks. However, we have the potential to change the trajectory of what happens two weeks from now and three weeks from now and four weeks from now. And that's what we need to focus on."

As for public schools reopening or travel restrictions being lifted, Raethel says that would further burden the hospitals. So he says it is imperative to get the current infection rate under control before more reopening measures are considered.

Green thinks the state needs to return to a “safer at home” stage, where it was back in May. That’s when residents were told to limit trips outside their homes. Low-risk retailers were allowed to open, but not gyms and restaurants.

Ray Vara, CEO with Hawaii Pacific Health, which operates Kapiolani, Straub, Pali Momi, and Wilcox medical centers, also warned on Monday that Hawaii is on track to outstrip its hospital capacity.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is expected to hold a press conference today to address calls for another lockdown in light of the rising cases.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo

Thermal screeners now operating at state airports

Thermal cameras are now in place at airports around the state to screen out-of-state arrivals for possible symptoms of COVID-19.

The cameras are part of a system funded through the federal CARES Act and are now operational at airports in Lihue, Honolulu, Kahului, Kona, and Hilo.

Hawaii National Guard members operate thermal screening equipment installed at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.
Credit Ryan Finnerty/HPR

For now, the cameras are being operated by soldiers from the Hawaii National Guard.

Tim Sakahara with the state Department of Transportation says the cameras will be looking for passengers with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher.

"In those situations, that passenger will be pulled aside for an additional evaluation," he said. "It will be confirmed if they do in fact have that elevated temperature, and then additional precautions will be taken, including the option of having a COVID-19 test taken here at the airport."

For now, the cameras only monitor body temperature. But, by December, the system will be expanded to include facial recognition capability.

Sakahara said the facial recognition would only be triggered for passengers with a temperature. It will be used to help health screeners confirm they checked the correct person.

Data from the cameras would be deleted after 30 minutes and the image would not include any personal information like a name or  Social Security number.

The ACLU of Hawaii previously expressed concern over the planned use of facial recognition equipment. In  a June letter to Gov. David Ige, the group described the plan as a potential violation of the state Constitution’s right to privacy.

--HPR's Ryan Finnerty

DOH plans to release more measures of COVID-19 impact

The state Department of Health says it will be releasing more information to better track and manage the COVID-19.

As HPR reported Wednesday, the department has been criticized for its lack of transparency in providing COVID-19 data that would help decisionmakers, researchers and the public understand the spread of the disease.

The department plans to disclose measures such as the response time for contact tracing and the percentage of lab results that are positive. It says it is also monitoring the number of hospital beds filled daily with COVID-19 patients.

Health Director Bruce Anderson said the new data will "augment existing metrics to assess the impact of policy changes and as a way for policymakers and the public to track the course of the outbreak." The metrics will be updated weekly or daily at hawaiicovid19.com.

“This is not just an academic exercise," Anderson said. "The accessibility of this information on a public dashboard allows us to clearly see how well we are dealing with this pandemic, helps others understand why decisions are made, and holds all of us to a higher standard.” 

 

The department said the metrics are especially important as cases continue to climb rapidly, which may require the state to return to tighter restrictions to prevent the spread of the disease.

Local participants sought for COVID-19 vaccine study

A Hawaii clinical research group is seeking participants for a study of a coronavirus vaccine.

The East-West Medical Research Institute is one of over 120 sites around the world enrolling up to 30,000 participants for the two-year study sponsored by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. 

“We are excited that the people of Hawaii will be able to participate in this important study with the aim of helping to bring this global pandemic to an end. It is important that people of all ethnicities have the opportunity to participate in this research trial,” said Dr. David Fitz-Patrick, president of the research institute and principal investigator for the trial.

Participants must not be pregnant and be 18 to 85 years old. The phase 2/3 trial will investigate the vaccine against a placebo in a randomized, blind study. The aim is to obtain a safe, immune response from the vaccine and data for regulatory review.

Participants will be given two injections spaced about three weeks apart. The participants will have six study visits. 

Those interested in participating can visit www.eastwestresearch.com or call (808) 440-4474 for more information.

Where we stand

The state Department of Health reported 173 new COVID-19 cases yesterday. All are on Oahu and reflect another triple-digit day of new infections.

The state's total case count now stands at 2,763. Out of that total, 2,394 cases are on Oahu, 177 in Maui County, 122 in Hawaii County, and 47 in Kauai County. There have been 23 residents diagnosed outside of the state, 214 people hospitalized and 27 deaths. One Maui case was removed from the counts due to updated information.

On Tuesday, the department reported the state's latest death. The Honolulu man, between 40 to 59 years old, had underlying medical conditions. The man's death was reported to the health department by the Honolulu medical examiner. An investigation into his cause of death continues but it is being recorded as a COVID-19 fatality. 

Earlier this week, the health department reported several clusters, including 71 cases linked to a series of funeral events, 12 cases tied to a birthday party and 6 cases associated with a hot yoga class. 

The rising case numbers are a factor in ongoing debates about whether to delay both the scheduled start of public schools on Aug. 17 and the reopening of trans-Pacific travel beginning on Sept. 1 to those who test negative.

Among the new cases and developments:

• A Hawaii County fire department battalion chief stationed at the Waikoloa Fire Station has tested positive for the coronavirus. Five asymptomatic station employees are in self-quarantine as a precaution. The battalion chief, who showed no symptoms, took a COVID-19 test on Saturday to comply with pre- and post-travel requirements to Oahu. On Monday, he received the positive results. The station has been disinfected and the five employees will receive tests over the next two weeks. They must receive negative tests in order to return to work, following the department's protocols.

• A state deputy sheriff has tested positive for COVID-19, the first employee of the Department of Public Safety confirmed to have the virus. There have been no positive cases among the prison population, DPS said in a news release. The employee reported not feeling well after work on Monday night and did not work on Tuesday. He reported the positive test yesterday morning. All employees in the Special Operations Section building where he worked were instructed to go home and check with their doctor. The building will be closed, cleaned and disinfected. All arrest processing and bookings will be conducted at the Sheriff Division Airport Section Booking Station.

• A positive case has been reported at a Hilo dialysis center, the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said in news release. The state Department of Health and the County of Hawaii Task Force are working with the Liberty Dialysis administration in responding to the incident, the agency said. There have been screening and testing of those who could have been infected. About 200 people have already been tested as of Tuesday. The dialysis facilities is being disinfected, officials say.

COVID-19 testing scheduled in 'Ewa, Kakaako this weekend

The city is supporting more COVID-19 testing at Geiger Community Park in ‘Ewa and Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park this weekend. 

The drive-through testing will be offered at both locations. Walkups will be accommodated but will be seen in turn. 

The Geiger Community Park testing will be offered from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday by Kalihi Kai Urgent Care. The Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park testing will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday by Premier Medical Group Hawaiʻi.

 

The PCR (nose swab) test will be conducted but with a doctor determining who should be tested. Quarantine guidelines for tested patients will follow the state Department of Health recommendations. Testing will be offered free for anyone who doesn't have insurance.

 

Those who attend will first be screened for symptoms and asked to provide personal information and contact numbers so results can be given to them.

For more information on the testing run by Kalihi Kai Urgent Care, call (808) 841-2273. For information on testing run by Premier Medical Group Hawaiʻi, call (808) 304-8816 or (808) 367-6020.

 

Returning Kauai resident arrested in quarantine violation case

Kaua‘i police arrested 64-year-old Michael Rowan of Wainiha yesterday in connection with Hawai‘i’s 14-day quarantine. The quarantine requires that all trans-Pacific travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

Police say Rowan arrived on a Delta flight from Los Angeles International Airport on Aug. 2 and claimed to be a returning resident, but chose the Kaua‘i Palms Hotel as his quarantine location.

On Tuesday, Rowan reportedly left his room three times and approached hotel staff without wearing a mask. Police responded to the hotel and he was arrested for violating the state’s emergency rules.

Rowan posted $1,000 in bail and was escorted by police back to his place of quarantine for the remainder of his 14 days of isolation.

KPD has made 60 arrests for violations of the quarantine order. All individuals arrested face up to a year in jail and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

Returning residents, visitors flood into state airports

The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported 3,029 people arrived on Tuesday, including 979 returning residents and 922 visitors. 

The numbers of returning residents and visitors continue to swell despite a mandatory 14-day travel quarantine for all arrivals and surging COVID-19 cases on the Mainland and on Oahu.

 

Health officials have urged residents not to travel at this time unless essential because of the danger that they can bring back the virus to the islands, as some have done.

 

Others arriving at state airports include 283 crew members, 197 transiting travelers, 146 military members, and 155 travelers exempt from quarantine. Another 347 travelers said they are relocating to Hawaii.

  

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.