The Latest: 3 Deaths, 131 New Cases; Caldwell Backs Phased Rail; State Wants 60-70% To Get Vaccine

Oct 23, 2020

Updated: 10/23/2020, 12:15 p.m. 

The Hawaii Department of Health today reported 3 deaths and 131 new COVID-19 cases. It's the second day running that the state's case count have reached three digits, driven in part by the outbreak on Lanai.

The latest count brings the total number of COVID cases during the pandemic to 14,464. The death toll rose to 209.


Oahu had 67 new cases followed by 34 on Hawaii Island, 30 in Maui County and none in Kauai County. Two cases were removed from the Oahu count due to updated information.


Oahu has now had 12,734 cases, Hawaii Island 1,154, Maui County 464 and Kauai 60. Fifty-two cases have been diagnosed out of state. Two Honolulu cases were removed from the counts based on updated information.

Mayor: Rail can go to Ala Moana in phases

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell believes the $10 billion rail project can reach Ala Moana with a phased approach.

Last month, Caldwell pulled the city out of a public-private partnership to construct the project’s last four miles, citing high cost, delays and a lack of transparency about the process.

City Council member Ron Menor earlier this week pointed to the city’s dire finances and said the city and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation may have to shorten the rail line.

Caldwell believes the project can go all the way to Ala Moana under a new, more transparent plan.

"The first phase would be using the money that we already have available to us now. And then to talk about the second phase with the FTA based on certain funding assumptions, as we climb out of the pandemic," he said.

"I think we can do it, but we can’t do it secretly. We need to get all the information out, and we need to have the discussions like we had with the Honolulu City Council, the HART board, and the general public to know what the costs are going to be and how this phased approach is going to work."

With the city withdrawing from public-private partnership, HART likely has to create a new plan to complete the project before the end of the year – or risk losing $250 million in federal funds.

HART’s board of directors is scheduled to meet next week to discuss how it will proceed with the project.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

High level of vaccination needed for virus control

Gov. David Ige says 60 to 70 percent of Hawaii’s population will need to get vaccinated to bring the coronavirus under control.

Reaching that portion of the population with a COVID-19 vaccine will be a tall order. In 2018, only 27.7 percent of Hawaii adults 18 to 64 received the flu vaccine.

There isn’t an approved COVID-19 vaccine yet, and supplies at least initially may be in short supply.

But the state has begun drafting out how the vaccine will get to residents, releasing more details about its plan yesterday.

While many issues are unclear, the state says it will offer the vaccine at no charge, although it may impose a small administrative fee.

Distributing the vaccine will take a major effort.

State health department immunization branch chief Ron Balajadia estimates the cost at about $25 million.

"That will fluctuate depending on what type of vaccine is chosen and also the capacity to store it," he said. "Having to have them kept appropriately in storage so that they are viable when they are administered to an individual is really important.


"Even the effort to try to get people vaccinated, or looking at possible mass vaccination clinics -- we're also looking at possible drive-through clinics. And we're also looking at possible mobile team visits. All of those things are going to cost a lot of money."


Balajadia says the health department is still working on who exactly would receive the vaccine first.

But generally, high-risk health workers, those with underlying medical conditions and adults over 65 will have priority.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo

Where we stand 

The Hawaii Department of Health yesterday reported 3 deaths and 102 new COVID-19 cases. The new infections return the state's case count to three digits after a series of days under 100.

The latest count brings the total number of COVID cases during the pandemic to 14,335. The death toll rose to 206.

The three deaths were males in their 70s who had underlying medical conditions and were hospitalized when they died.


Oahu had 52 new cases followed by 29 on Hawaii Island, 18 in Maui County and none in Kauai County. Three more cases were diagnosed out of state.


Oahu has now had 12,669 cases, Hawaii Island 1,120, Maui County 435 and Kauai 60. Fifty-one cases have been diagnosed out of state.  One Hawaii Island case was removed from the counts based on updated information.