The Latest: 4 Deaths, 211 Cases; Surge Tests Show Low Positivity Rate; Big Isle Beach Parks Closing

Sep 3, 2020

Updated: 9/3/2020, 12:09 p.m.

Hawaii recorded four more deaths today and 211 new COVID-19 cases, the state Department of Health reported. The latest counts bring the state death toll to 79 and the total number of cases to 9,202. There are 190 new cases on Oahu, 17 on Hawaii Island, and 4 on Maui County.

There have now been 8,339 cases on Oahu, 435 on Hawaii Island, 346 for Maui County, and 57 on Kauai. 

Outgoing Health Director Bruce Anderson said yesterday that 27 of the 339 positive cases from Wednesday were identified as a result of the 5,674 surge tests received so far.

"Although many more test results from surge testing will be received in the next couple of weeks, it is reassuring to see that the positivity rate is only 0.4 percent (27/5,674) or below 1%," he said in a news release.

State and city officials hope the stay-at-home order in effect for Oahu until Sept. 9 will work to lower the number of new daily cases that have been running in the triple digits for most of August and now into September. 

The surge in cases is stressing the capacity at local hospitals, where a lack of sufficient numbers of health care personnel, especially nurses, remains a major worry.

Surge testing continues at various Oahu locations today, including on the H-3 Freeway. The testing will go on, a state transportation department spokesman said, although the federal govrernment disapproved the use of the freeway for the testing event.

Register at doineedacovid19test.com and see details of where and when the testing sites are scheduled.

Among the latest developments:

• The Hilo Medical Center reported 8 COVID-positive patients in the hospitalized, 2 in the intensive care unit and 6 in the COVID unit. Four staff members from various hospital departments have tested positive. Each case is being managed with contact tracing, testing and monitoring by the hospital's employee health team. The workers affected are in quarantine at home.

• One death yesterday at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home brings the total to 4 deaths at the home. A total fo 46 residents and 12 employees have tested positive for COVID. Eighteen new residents and 2 new employees have tested positive in recent re-testing. None of the residents are hospitalized. Forty-one are being cared for at the veterans home's COVID-designated area. 

• Two people at the Manoa Gardens Elderly Housing recently tested positive for the coronavirus, the city said in a news release. The couple was placed under quarantine and notices were sent out to tenants. Testing will be conducted at Manoa Gardens this week by the Premier Medical Group Hawaii. If residents are unable to pay for the testing through insurance, the city will cover the cost with federal CARES Act funds. Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the situation was brought to the city's attention by City Council member Ann Kobayashi, who represents the area. 

• Two more inmates and three staff have tested positive at the Oahu Community Correctional Center, according to the state Department of Public Safety. There have now been 280 inmates who have tested positive, 51 of them active cases. Sixty-nine OCCC staff have tested positive, 48 of them active. In addition, two deputy sheriffs working in separate divisions have tested positive for COVID-19. One deputy in the airport section reported a positive test result yesterday and last worked on Aug. 29. The other deputy works in the Kapolei Court Section. That employee reported the test result yesterday and last worked on Aug. 28. The state health department is said to be conducting contact tracing and DPS is awaiting further guidance from health officials. 

• The Hawaii State Judiciary reported an Oahu employee who has been teleworking but who visited the office in the Kapuaiwa Building in downtown Honolulu briefly on Sunday tested positive for COVID-19. The office, restroom and entryway will undergo additional cleaning and disinfecting. A Maui employee, who is asymptomatic, and last worked on Friday at Hoapili Hale also tested positive. Co-workers who had prolonged contact were advised to self-quarantine and seek guidance from their medical providers. The Judiciary has now had 12 confirmed positive cases among its employees statewide.

Hawaii Island closing state and county beach parks

The County of Hawaii announced closure of all county and state beach parks from Sept. 4-Sept. 18 in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases on the Big Island. The aim is to limit gatherings at the beaches that could spread the virus. 

"We are at a critical stage, and we must stop the spread of the virus," said Mayor Harry Kim. "Beach parks can only be used to access to the ocean, exercising, fishing and gathering food, and using bathrooms and shower facilities."

The park restrooms and shower are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

 

Pavilions, barbeques, temporary canopies, pop-up tents, tarps and other shade devices are not allowed under the mayor's latest emergency order. All camping on beach parks and shorelines is prohibited and all existing camping permits have been canceled.

 

Kauai mayor warns against large Labor Day weekend gatherings

Mayor Derek Kawakami urge Kauai residents to act responsibly during the Labor Day holiday and observe the limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings.

"As we saw on Oahu, many people had gathered in large numbers over the 4th of July weekend. Most did not wear masks. By the end of July, Oahu's daily case numbers climbed into triple digits and they remain extremely high today," he said.

 

Indoor gatherings on Kauai are limited to no more than 10 and outdoor gatherings can include no more than 25 people.

"But any gathering of people who don't live together is a risk," the mayor said. "If you plan to gather with others, please keep the group small. Practice physical distancing at all times, and wear your mask."

Governor praises WWII veterans as models for uncertain times

Yesterday marked the 75th anniversary of Japan’s formal surrender to allied forces – ending World War II.

Organizers dramatically scaled back the events commemorating the date due to COVID-19. But a handful of local World War II veterans attended the ceremony in person.

Gov. David Ige, delivering one of the speeches streamed to a national audience, praised the veterans, saying their lives serve as  examples for navigating uncertain times.

"Some compared fighting a pandemic akin to fighting a global war – that may or may not be an accurate comparison," he said. "What I do know is that we cannot go wrong in following their example. In the face of any adversity, their courage under fire, strength of character, resilience over time provides a clear roadmap for us to follow in all that we do. Whether we are fighting a social injustice or a virus."

Other speakers included U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Admiral Phil Davidson of the Indo-Pacific Command.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

Lawmaker advises unemployed to have taxes withheld on jobless benefits

State Sen. Donna Kim urged those receiving unemployment benefits to sign up for withholding taxes.

Kim said at a Senate committee meeting yesterday that many don’t realize the jobless benefits are taxable.

Here’s Kim followed by Acting Labor Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio.

“If you are collecting unemployment you should be having them deduct your taxes now because if you don't, come the end of the year, and you file your taxes, you gonna owe taxes on all of that $600," she said, referring to the extra weekly jobless benefit that has since expired.

The acting director says $300 in additional weekly benefits will be coming for those who are receiving unemployment. The payments from the federal Lost Wages Assistance program will run for four weeks only – at least for now.

Beyond that, Perreira-Eustaquio says it’s not clear if Congress will provide additional help for those who’ve lost work because of COVID-19.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro 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.