The Latest: Thousands Arrive With Pre-Tests, Bypass Quarantine; 1 Death, 89 Cases

Oct 16, 2020

Updated: 10/16/2020, 3:21 p.m. 

The state Department of Health today reported 1 death and 89 new COVID-19 cases. The latest case count represents the second day running of daily infections in the double digits. The number brings the statewide total of coronavirus cases to 13,853. The death toll rose to 185.

There have now been 12,317 cases on Oahu (69 new cases), 1,026 on Hawaii Island (20 new cases), 411 for Maui County (no new cases), and 59 on Kauai County (no new cases). Those diagnosed out of state stood at 40. 

Yesterday's one death was an Oahu man. He was over 80 years old, had an underlying medical condition and was hospitalized when he died.

Oahu still leads in number of infections, but Hawaii Island continues to see more COVID-19 cases, exceeding 1,000 in its total count.

Life Care Center of Hilo, which reported another resident death Wednesday bringing the total to four, said yesterday one resident was being treated at Hilo Medical Center. Nine have been treated at the hospital and returned.

The nursing home had 52 residents test positive as of Wednesday, 44 of them active. Sixteen staff have tested positive, 9 active.

The University of the Nations Kona was scheduled to undergo another round of student and staff testing today at Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim's request. About 50 student and staff have tested positive at the unaccredited religious-based program, 18 of them active as of Tuesday, the school said on its website.

 

Thousands expected as pre-test program waives travel quarantine 

 

Thirty trans-Pacific flights arrived in Hawaii yesterday on the first day of the state’s traveler testing program. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, 

 

Under the program, visitors and residents returning to Hawaii may now bypass the quarantine if they take a COVID-19 test before flying and are negative for the virus.

 

While some observers predicted there would be a rocky rollout, the first day appeared to go relatively smoothly.

 

"It was a lot of running around, just following all the steps," said Matt Battiata from San Diego, who arrived with his family of six. "But if you follow the steps -- we all got tested three days ago, you know, we got a rapid test. It took about 30 minutes and then just went on the website and did everything and brought our QR codes. It's a bit of a run around, but it's worth it."

 

Nikki and Jeris Rue from Omaha, Nebraska, had a similar experience.

 

"We actually ended up taking two tests because we wanted to ensure that we get the results back. They both came back within 48 hours," said Nikki Rue.

 

Jeris Rue added: "And because of the timezone differences, we had to calculate, to make sure that we didn't fill it out too early. But as soon as you figured that out, they've been very well prepared and it seems very, very flexible and welcoming."

 

All of the visitors had booked trips earlier in the year and postponed them until the launch of the testing program.

 

An employee of the Department of Transportation said initial figures indicated around 80 percent of passengers had opted to get a test before flying.

 

Gov. David Ige and Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the state is working to develop a post-arrival surveillance program that would randomly test around 10 percent of travelers, four days after arrival.

 

Both expressed optimism that the return of some tourism would bring relief to financially struggling residents and businesses.

 

--HPR's Ryan Finnerty

 

UH system enrollment declines slightly 

 

Student enrollment at the 10-campus University of Hawaii system fell by 0.8%, according to the university yesterday. The count declined from 49,977 to 49,594 this year.

 

The decline is smaller than the national average of about 3%, UH said in a release.

 

Enrollment varied by campus. UH-Manoa, UH-West Oahu and Kauai Community College saw increases in student numbers while UH-Hilo and other community colleges experienced declines.

 

Tuition revenue is expected to fall slightly with fewer out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition, attending the university. 

 

The university is facing a major financial crisis brought on by the pandemic, with cutbacks, program closures and department mergers on the table.

 

 

Medical school to offer COVID-19 tests

 

The Univeristy of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine will begin offering COVID-19 tests for Honolulu residents starting on Monday.

The city earmarked $4 million in CARES Act funds earlier this year to build the testing lab at JABSOM’s Kaka‘ako facility at 651 Ilalo Street.

The lab will increase the city’s testing capacity and provide PCR nasal swab tests primarily for underserved residents 18 and over, although others are welcome.

Vivek Nerurkar, JABSOM’s tropical medicine department chair, says the lab will turn around quick results.

"This is a nucleic acid test, and this test will be done right next to our building," he said. "Our goal is to make sure that we get the test results back to you in 24-48 hours. For the test, which will be done today, we can probably get them back by tomorrow end of business. I think that’s good enough of a turnaround time."

The lab can process 500 tests a day and up to a thousand daily to accommodate any surge in COVID cases. 

Nerurkar says the lab can also run antibody tests but the PCR nucleic tests are the priority.

The tests are free for those without health insurance. For an appointment, call 808-692-1310.

More information on the tests are available on the city website.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

Surge testing resumes at Waikiki Shell, other locations

Reservations are being taken again for the nasal self-swab tests for COVID-19.

Thousands took the tests about a month ago at several locations, including on the H-3 Freeway where the state and city held two days of drive-through testing.

Today and tomorrow, the tests are available at the Waikiki Shell and the Kapolei Hale Satellite City Hall, among other options, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Reservations can be made at doineedacovid19test.com. Check the site for more locations as well as any changes.