The Latest: No Deaths, 62 New Cases; Guard, Health Department Visiting Lanai Homes To Stop Spread

Oct 28, 2020

Updated: 10/28/2020, 12:15 p.m. 

The state Department of Health today reported no deaths and 62 new COVID-19 cases. The count for Lanai, which is seeing an outbreak that has locked down the island, increased by 7 cases to 94 in total.

The latest count brings the total number of COVID cases during the pandemic to 14,834. The death toll was adjusted to 213 after two cases were removed based on updated information.

Oahu had 41 new cases, 5 for Hawaii Island, 2 for Maui, 7 for Lanai, and 1 for Kauai County. Six more cases were diagnosed out of state. One case from Oahu was removed from the counts due to updated information.

Oahu has now recorded 12,953 cases, Hawaii Island 1,238, Maui 405, Molokai 17, Lanai 94 and Kauai 63. Sixty-four cases have been diagnosed out of state. 

Yesterday's three deaths included an Oahu man in his 70s and two Hawaii Island men, one in his 60s and the other over 80 years of age. All had underlying medical conditions and were hospitalized when they died.

Lanai remains under lockdown as cases edge up

Seven new infections reported today brings the number of coronavirus cases on Lanai to 94.

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino yesterday attributed Lanai's COVID-19 outbreak to a cluster in the Polynesian community and said the Hawaii National Guard and health officials were visiting homes to help stop the spread of the virus.

Yesterday, nine new infections on Lanai brought the total case count to 87 on the island. 

Surge testing on Saturday of about 1,000 people found six of the new positive cases, the mayor said, and three other cases were discovered prior to Saturday. 

"The National Guard along with the Department of Health representatives have been going house-to-house with literature and speaking the language, the native language, of these Polynesian communities. So we're thankful for that," Victorino said in a Facebook video update.

Victorino said given the number of cases, "we are really in pretty good shape overall." He encouraged residents of Lanai to participate in a second round of free surge testing to take place Friday or Saturday. An announcement will be made on the day when officials have updates on a storm headed to the islands.

He also urged Lanai residents to abide by the stay-at-home order that took effect Tuesday mandating they remain at home except for essential purposes like grocery shopping and medical appointments. The order will remain in place until Nov. 11 unless extended.

Testing is also scheduled on Maui Island with pre-registration: 

• Lahaina/West Maui: 305 Keawe St. (temporary site located in parking lot), Mondays and Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., for October and November.

• Kihei/Wailea: 1280 South Kihei Road (behind Ace Hardware), Tuesdays and Fridays, 8 a.m to 4 p.m., for October and November.

• Kahului: 348 Lehuakona St. (behind Maui Marketplace), Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., for October and November.

Pre-registration is required by visiting www.minitmed.com/pre-register-maui-covid-19. Residents can call 808-667-6161 extension 7, for help or more information.

$100M rental aid program running out of funds

The state's Rental Relief and Housing Assistance Fund that's intended to help struggling renters is suffering major delays in getting aid distributed.

Organizers say they are cautiously optimistic that they can resolve the issues by the end of the year. But they are no longer accepting applications because they would run out of funds.

That's according to John Fink, CEO of Aloha United Way, one of the nonprofits administering the program.

"We're seeing a huge ramp up in our capacity, which was not there for the first few weeks, and we are feeling cautiously optimistic with the capacity increases we've had," he said. "We've added another 25 people. Catholic Charities has added 30 more people. Some of our partners have added a few more people.

 

"And the process has just gotten easier as we've gotten [a] better handle on the forms and some of the issues that were problems in the first few weeks."

 

The state needs to spend $71 million in rental relief within the next two months to meet a federal deadline. That is what is left from the original $100 million appropriation minus administrative fees and rent distributions.

Of the 19,000 applications submitted for rent relief, only about 2,000 have been processed.

While Fink says the nonprofits are not accepting any new applications, those who need help can apply to their county for household hardship relief.

--HPR's Ashley Mizuo

Rail project again in disarray after HART board vote

A majority of the HART board has voted to cancel a public-private partnership that was to finish the troubled Honolulu rail system.

But the rail authority requires a unanimous vote to take that step and the board fell short with a 7 to 2 vote yesterday.

The city has pulled out from the partnership known as P-3 because of high costs, delays and a lack of transparency about the process. Instead, the city wanted HART to take another approach to complete the rail's last four miles.

After the board failed to do that, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in a statement that he was disappointed but not surprised.

Before the decision, Caldwell spoke to the board and reviewed the project’s long history of delays and cost overruns. He said he had gone to the state Legislature twice asking for money for the project based on information given by HART and giving completion dates provided by the rail authority.

"None of these projected amounts, none of these dates have held true. Now I've taken a major hit to my credibility, in my reputation, in the home that I was born in, in the home that I'll die in," he said.

But he added: "I take this project seriously. I continue to fight for it to the very last day as mayor."

It's not clear what will happen next. 

HART CEO Andy Robbins, who supports the partnership as the best approach to finish the project, was asked if he planned to proceed ahead despite the board's majority vote. He said he had to think about it.

HART and the city face an end-of-the-year deadline to develop a plan laying out how they will complete the project. They could lose $250 million in federal funding if they don't.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

HTA's DeFries: State has a problem with mask violations

The new head of the Hawaii Tourism Authority says there’s a growing problem with too many people not wearing face masks, especially on the island of Oahu.

John DeFries says before there’s any discussion about growth in tourism, there is a major issue he has witnessed first-hand in Honolulu.

“I was shocked this weekend to witness the complacency with which people are choosing not to wear a mask. This is the law. This is not a guideline. And it needs to be adhered to by our local residents," he said.

"The leaders in our industry need to reinforce this — whether it’s on the airline, ground transportation, hotels, activities, restaurants — we need to get a handle on this and need to get a handle on it immediately. Again, this is not a guideline, it is the law of the land. And will be enforced.”

DeFries says the industry and the state need to do a better job with  consistent communication about the rules on wearing masks.

He took up the post of president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority last month.

--HPR's Bill Dorman