The Latest: 7 More OCCC Inmates Test Positive; 202 New Cases, 4 More Deaths Bring Total to 38

Aug 12, 2020

Updated: 8/12/2020, 5:36 p.m.

Seven more Oahu Community Correctional Center inmates have tested positive, bringing the total to 16, the Hawaii Department of Public Safety said today.

The department disclosed earlier that 7 OCCC adult correctional officers have tested positive for COVID-19. The total number of positive cases at the Kalihi facility now stands at 23, one of the largest clusters reported recently.

DPS also reported 1 case at Halawa Correctional Facility, 2 at the Waiawa Correctional Facility and 1 in the Sheriff Division. All told, public safety has 27 inmates and staff who have tested positive.

The Department of Health is said to be conducting contact tracing of the recent cases and coordinating with the Hawaii National Guard to test close contacts. 

DPS has also hired a cleaning and sanitation company to deep clean the OCCC quarantine housing and intake areas as soon as possible, the department said in a news release. Transports to court from all Oahu facilities have been suspended through Friday and video hearings will be held when possible.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the Department of Public Safety's total cases as inmates rather than inmates and staff.

Where we stand

The Hawaii Department of Health today reported four deaths of Oahu men and 202 new cases, 197 on Oahu, 2 each on Hawaii Island and Kauai, and 1 on Maui.

Two of the four deaths were reported yesterday but added to today's numbers. Both were over 60 years old. The additional two deaths reported today were between 40 and 59 years old, at least one who had underlying conditions. The latest deaths brings the number of COVID-19 deaths in Hawaii to 38.

There were 5 restaurant clusters with a few employers at each location and no transmission to customers have been identified at this time, the department said. An employee potluck at Honolulu Hale is a possible source for the outbreak there that infected 11 city workers and largely closed down the City Hall building.

The latest cases bring the state total to 3,958, 3,558 on Oahu, 135 on Hawaiii Island, 191 in Maui County, and 51 on Kauai.

The state is now reporting the percent of positive results in tests, saying that measure has remained relatively unchanged at 5.8%. The World Health Organization says before a region can relax restrictions and begin reopening, it should be at or below 5% for 14 days.

Among other new cases:

• Another TheBus operator tested positive for COVID-19, Oahu Transit Services confirmed yesterday. OTS operates the bus and handivan system for the city. The infection brings the total positive cases for TheBus and TheHandi-Van to 6. The operator informed OTS on Sunday that a household member had tested positive and was placed on leave and quarantined. On Monday, the operator was tested and received positive results the same day. The driver last worked on Saturday and was asymptomatic. The routes driven, all on bus 205, were route #415 (Kapolei Transit-Kalaeloa) 1:32 p.m. to 1:54 p.m., 7:26 p.m. to 7:48 p.m.; #41 ( Kapolei-Ewa Beach) 2 p.m. to 3:29 p.m., 4 p.m. to 5:33 p.m., 6:05 p.m. to 7:26 p.m., 8 p.m. to 9:19 p.m.; #415 (Kapolei Transit-Kalaeloa) 3:29 p.m. to 3:56 p.m. and 5:33 p.m. to 6:05 p.m. OTS said its internal contact tracing found the driver had no prolonged contact with employees or customers.

• An Oahu Family Court worker tested positive, the state Judiciary said yesterday. The case is the second for the Judicary. Last week, an employee who was asymptomatic tested positive at the South Kohala District Court. The employee in the latest case last worked at the courthouse on Friday and began experiencing symptoms on Saturday. The worker received a positive test yesterday. All those with close, prolonged contact with the worker were sent home to quarantine and advised to see their medical provider. The Kapolei Judiciary Complex where the Family Court is located will remain open. Meanwhile, First Circuit Court Judge R. Mark Browning issued an order increasing the number of proceedings to be conducted remotely in response to the recent spike on Oahu in COVID-19 cases.

Neighbor Island schools to start year with distance learning 

Most Neighbor Island schools will join Oahu’s in holding distance learning classes in the first month of the new school year starting August 17th.

Public School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto made that announcement yesterday.

She also says when a student, teacher or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the department is committed to naming the school’s complex area -- not the school itself -- where the infection happened.

The teachers union says five Oahu schools recently had staff members test positive for the virus.

But Hawaii State Teachers Association President Corey Rosenlee says parents and the public are not being notified.

"Other administrations across the country are regularly releasing the number of coronaviruses connected to school campuses, along with a number of school staff that are being quarantined as a precaution. So far our state has not provided the public with that important information, so parents and the community understand what's really happening. 

"As a parent of a senior at Campbell High where one of these cases was reported, I'm angry that the DOE has not notified me and other parents just a week before my daughter and her classmate are supposed to return to campus."

But the Department of Education says parents of impacted schools should be receiving a notification. And while the DOE will not be widely reporting what specific schools have COVID-19 cases, it will identify the complex area.

"It’s targeted notification for who needs to know, because they are impacted. We are not doing broad brush reporting at this time," said Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. "If the situation changes where there is specific guidance about how the DOE should do this from the Department of Health, right now, the Department of Health is responsible for its reporting."

Rosenlee says the Department of Health has not kept up with contact tracing of infections in schools. Teachers who should have been contacted say they have not heard from health officials.

Anthony McCurdy, a photography teacher at Campbell High School, says his school notified him on Saturday that he may have been in contact with an infected person from school but he has yet to hear from the health department.

Kishimoto says she is asking the health department to assign a team of contact tracers for K-12 classes.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo

DeCoite prevails over Ritte in recount

A recount of the votes in the race for state House District 13 handed a win to incumbent Rep. Lynn DeCoite.

She defeated long-time activist Walter Ritte in the primary election by a margin of just 93 votes.
That’s according to the recount tally released yesterday by the state Office of Elections.

A precinct breakdown shows DeCoite winning a majority of the votes on Lāna’i and Moloka’i, while Ritte dominated in east Maui communities of Pāia, Haikū, and Hāna.

DeCoite will face Republican candidate Robin Vanderpool in the general election in November.

--HPR's Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

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.