Updated: 9/1/2020, 12:08 p.m.
Where we stand
Hawaii recorded four more deaths today and 181 new COVID-19 cases, the state Department of Health reported. The latest numbers bring the death toll to 74 and total number of cases to 8,653.
The state had its deadliest day yesterday with 7 COVID-19 deaths. Five were on Oahu and two on Hawaii Island, where a breakout is occurring.
Of the 7 deaths, four were Oahu men who were hospitalized with underlying health conditions. Two were older than 80, one was between 70 and 79 years old and one was 60- to 69. Another of the deaths was a woman on Oahu, 60 to 69, who also had been hospitalized with underlying conditions. On Hawaii Island, the two deaths involve men, both residents at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo and both over 80.
Yesterday's daily positivity rate rose to 9% from 7.2% the previous day. The state has been running at about a 10% positivity rate, the percentage of people who test positive, placing it in the red zone by federal measures.
State and city officials hope the stay-at-home order in effect for Oahu will work to lower the surge in new daily cases that have been running in the triple digits for most of August.
30,000 more tests headed for Hawaii
The federal government plans to send an additional 30,000 COVID-19 tests to Hawaii after over a thousand vials from the first day of surge testing were not labeled. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over the weekend advised nearly 1,800 residents to get re-tested because of the mishap.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says miscommunication caused the issue – and it only happened on the first day of surge testing.
He says a majority of the unlabeled vials came from the Kaneohe District Park testing location, but there were some at the Leeward Community College location.
"I think we’ve corrected the problems on the first day," the mayor said. "We had a little bit of a rocky rollout. Everyone has been brought up to speed on how they need to label the vials, and I think we’ve learned from that experience. And the good news is that 1,776 tests are a small fraction of all the tests we’ve done so far.
"As you know, we’re going to do 60,000 tests. We made a request for even more, and they’ve committed to provide another 30,000. So that would be a total of 90,000 tests that we’ll be doing on the island of Oahu."
Caldwell says an email will be sent to those who need to re-take the test, with information on their nearest test site and expedited registration.
Meanwhile, the free surge testing continues today. The first of two days of testing on the H-3 Freeway begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. Vehicles can begin lining up at 8:30 a.m.
Those who plan to get tested should pre-register at doineedacovid19test.com and print out the voucher to take to the test site. Instructions on how to approach the site from the Kaneohe and Halawa directions are available on the state Department of Transportation website.
Officials warn that the weather will be warm and the wait long. They advise participants to bring water and snacks. Portable toilets along the freeway site will be available but no handwashing sinks. Bring hand sanitizer and wipes.
The H-3 Freeway will be closed from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Trans-Koolau drivers can take the Likelike Highway or the Pali Highway during the closures.
Other testing locations are listed on the doineedacovid19test.com site.
--HPR's Casey Harlow
Hawaiian Air laying off 1,000 employees
More than a thousand additional jobs are being cut at Hawaiian Airlines—and more reductions could be coming.
CEO Peter Ingram sent a note to staff yesterday announcing that 816 flight attendants and 173 pilots will be leaving the airline by October 1st.
The departures are a combination of voluntary early retirements and involuntary furloughs. They come on top of cuts to non-union jobs announced two weeks ago.
In a letter to employees, Ingram wrote that “further delays to a pre-travel testing program and reopening date may require additional furloughs in the months ahead.”
More than a thousand other jobs covered by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers are targeted for furloughs by mid-September, along with a smaller number represented by the Transport Workers Union.
Ingram called the job cuts “painful and stressful for all of us,” but also “necessary to ensure our business survives.”
--HPR's Bill Dorman
Health department testing policy under microscope
State lawmakers are looking beyond the change in the top leadership at the Department of Health. They’re asking if its policies will also shift.
Gov. David Ige announced yesterday that Health Director Bruce Anderson will retire later this month. Anderson drew heavy criticism for his department’s response to the surge in COVID-19 cases.
State Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole says with a reset of the state’s COVID-19 response, he wants to know who should get tested.
The health department had limited the tests to just those with symptoms. That was so the state could conserve testing supplies. But that policy may have let the virus spread undetected.
“I think there has always been confusion about the policies around when you test and why and the correlation between that and the testing troubles versus the actual supply," he said. "Because there's a credibility gap right now between the policy and the public.”
Queen’s Health Systems President Jill Hoggard Green, speaking before the Senate’s COVID-19 committee, said the science around coronavirus has been evolving.
A month ago, the guidance was to test only those with symptoms. It was thought that only those with symptoms carried enough virus for the tests to work.
But there was a lack of focus on those with COVID-19 who had no symptoms. It turns out, they can shed the virus as well, and make others sick.
Green offered to analyze the current state of research on testing and return with policy recommendations.
--HPR's Sandee Oshiro
Queen's seeking more PPEs as COVID-19 cases skyrocket
The state’s largest hospital has requested an additional 10,000 boxes of N95 protective masks from the federal government.
The request comes amid surging cases of COVID-19, which have severely stressed local hospitals.
Queen’s Health Systems CEO Jill Hoggard Green told a state House panel yesterday that the hospital is experiencing a concerning shortage of protective equipment and described this as a critical time for Hawaii.
"When we started back in March, we had two units, a full ICU and a medical unit, to be fully trained and prepared for treating COVID," she said. "Today we have 6 units of clinicians dedicated for just patients with COVID. Our staff, our physicians, our nurses are very tired. Many are working double shifts to make sure they’re meeting the needs."
In August, Queen’s admitted more than 4 times the number of COVID patients it saw in July. She said that weeks of triple-digit new cases has created exponential growth of the virus locally.
Queens has also requested additional doses of the drug Remdesivir, which Green said is saving patients who might have died six months ago.
She also warned that Hawaii is in for a devastating fall and winter if less than 90 percent of the population gets a flu vaccine.
The normal rate of vaccination for the annual flu is around 40 percent.
--HPR's Ryan Finnerty
IHS men's shelter remains closed
The men’s shelter at the Institute for Human Services in Iwilei is still closed to new admissions.
IHS Executive Director Connie Mitchell says she expects current quarantine operations will wrap up in the next two weeks.
After that, she hopes to start to accept new clients on a limited basis.
She adds that residents who are completing quarantine are now more attractive candidates for rehousing.
"My hope is that we'll be able to move people through and make more room quicker," she said.
"And we also are doing more testing ahead of time so we can say, 'Hey, if you want to go to the POST, if you go there for two weeks, you'll be ready to come into the shelter at the end of that time. Because actually after we come out of quarantine and isolation, we will be instituting some new measures for people coming in."
At least 23 positive cases of COVID-19 have been found in at least three shelter facilities on Oahu, not including the positives at IHS.
--HPR's Noe Tanigawa
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.