The Latest: 45 New Cases, But Lag In Tests Impacts Numbers; 7 HFD, 2 EMS Workers Now Positive

Aug 2, 2020

Updated: 8/2/2020, 4:43 p.m.

The state Department of Health reported 45 new COVID-19 cases today, but a lag in test results is both providing an incomplete and inaccurate count of the infections and slowing contact tracing. 

Until yesterday's 87 cases, the state had seen a string of days when case counts reached triple-digits.  The state saw 123 cases on Friday, a record 124 on Thursday, and 109 on Wednesday. The latest case count today and yesterday have been temporarily affected by missing data from Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii, a major private laboratory conducting most of the tests in the state, the department said.

“We are missing electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) data from one of the private clinical laboratories, from July 31 to today. This is likely a result of recent modifications in data reporting required by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services," said state Epidemiologist Sarah Park.

"We have advised the affected laboratory to provide manual reporting of data until they’re able to correct the reporting issues. This is impacting our ability to quickly identify and investigate new persons with COVID-19 and to contact trace.”  

She said the state will need to update case numbers from Friday on.

Yesterday, the state said there was a significant lag in processing specimens being sent to the Mainland. Tests sent there can take as many as 10 days for results. Earlier this summer, labs reported they were not able to process all tests locally because of a shortage of the reagent chemicals used in the tests. 

Of today's cases, all but one is on Oahu. The other is on Maui. The latest count takes the state to 2,242 total cases since March.

Out of that total, 1,886 cases are on Oahu, 171 in Maui County, 115 in Hawaii County, and 47 in Kauai County. There have been 23 residents diagnosed outside of the state, 194 people hospitalized and 26 deaths.

 

"Many of the cases reported recently are associated with social gatherings,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson in a release yesterday. Cases have been tied to a yoga class, fire station, funeral events, gyms, bars and training events, among other locations.

 

Workplaces are also seeing COVID cases: a construction site, hospitals, social service organizations, nursing and care homes, retail establishments, a warehouse and delivery businesses have been impacted.

 

Household cases have also added to the total after beach parties and family gatherings, birthday parties, Father's Day, July 4th events, and religious functions.

 

New Oahu cases have been widely spread, covering Hale‘iwa, Hau‘ula, Kāneʻohe, Lāʻie, Mililani, Wahiawa, Waimānalo, ‘Aiea, Ewa Beach, Honolulu proper, Kailua, Kapolei, Pearl City, Wai‘anae, and Waipahu, among other areas.

 

2nd Honolulu EMS worker, 7 firefighters now positive for COVID-19

 

A second emergency medial services employee has tested positive for COVID-19 and the Honolulu Fire Department announced today one more firefighter has been infected, bringing the total number of first-responders reporting coronavirus cases in recent days to 9.

 

The worker infected in the latest EMS case is stationed at the Pawaa One station in Kapahulu. He is in insolation and will return to work when cleared by health officials, the Honolulu Emergency Services Department said in a news release. 

 

The firefighter whose case was announced today is based at the Kalihi Kai Fire Station and was placed on leave. Other affected station personnel will self-quarantine.

 

With the latest case, there are five firefighters with the Hawaii Kai Fire Station and one from the Moanalua Fire Station and one from Kalihi Kai. 

 

HFD is redistributing its personnel to maintain emergency coverage in the areas affected.

Yesterday, the city said a Honolulu emergency medical services worker stationed at the Liliha area station tested positive for COVID-19.

The worker notified his supervisor immediately after told of the postive result. The worker is in isolation and will return to the job once cleared by the state Department of Health. Employees who came into conact with the two employees are in 14-day quarantines.

 

The city's emergency medical services division has treated and transported 97 coronavirus patients, the Honolulu Emergency Services Department said in an update today.

 

“We are fully committed to keeping our personnel and the public safe while continuing to respond to medical calls," said Acting Chief of EMS Chris Sloman. He said EMS units, ambulances and equipment are decontaminated daily, hourly and after each 911 call.

 

EMS has had challenges over several years with funding and staffing, Sloman said. Losing more staff to the pandemic will "burden the system to a yet unknown extent," he said.

 

EMS is recalling personnel on overtime, using a back-up contractor if available and designating EMT personnel to staff ambulance units.

 

Sloman said now more than ever, the public should only call on EMS for life-threatening medical emergencies.

 

Maui County offers small business grants

 

Small businesses can apply for up to $7,500 in grants beginning tomorrow.

 

The Kokua Maui County Small Business Recovery & Relief Fund aims to help businesses impacted by COVID-19.  Local federal credit unions are taking applications. They include Maui County FCU, Valley Isle Community FCU, Kahului FCU, Wailuku FCU and Maui Teachers FCU.

 

Mayor Michael Victorino encouraged small businesses to apply for the funding, which can cover reimbursable business expenses such as rent/lease payments, utility expenses, and safety equipment.

 

Eligible businesses must have a physical business location in Maui County and less than $1 million in annual gross revenue, among other requirements.

 

More information is available at the fund webpage or by calling (808) 270-5745.

 

 

Visitors, Returning Residents Arriving By Hundreds

The Hawaii Tourism Authority says 2,711 people arrived on Friday, including 854 returning residents and 684 visitors.

 

Others arriving include 313 crew members, 226 transiting travelers, 237 military members, 124 travelers exempt from quarantine, and 273 who say they are relocating to Hawaii. Last year at this time, about 35,000 passengers arrived in Hawaii daily. The state's mandatory 14-day travel quarantine requirement remains in place through Aug. 31. 

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.