Updated: 07/14/2020, 1:11 p.m.
Where we stand
The Hawai’i Health Department reported 22 new cases of COVID-19 today. Nineteen cases are reported on Oahu, and three are on Hawaii Island. The number of deaths remains at 22.
The state case total now stands at 1,264. Oahu has 960 cases, Maui County has 135, Hawai’i County has 105, and Kauai County has 43. There are 21 residents who were diagnosed out of state. Some 921 people have been released from isolation.
Travel quarantining to remain in place
Hawaii will extend the state's travel quarantine another month, delaying plans to ease the restrictions on visitors and dashing the hopes of some in the devastated tourism industry who had hoped for a partial reopening on Aug. 1.
The pre-travel testing program would have allowed trans-Pacific visitors and returning residents to skip the mandatory 14-day quarantine if they tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of taking their flights to the islands.
But Gov. David Ige said at a press conference yesterday that the recent surge in Mainland cases and the reduced availability of tests because of the high demand both factored into the decision to push back the Aug. 1 start date to Sept. 1.
"On the U.S. Mainland, we continue to see uncontrolled outbreaks and surges," Ige said. "This includes the highest number of cases yet in California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida and increasing cases in Nevada. As we speak right now. The outbreaks on the Mainland are not in control. And we don't believe that that situation would change significantly by Aug.1 as we had hoped."
The governor also said the moratorium on evictions that prevents landlords from forcing out renters for failing to pay rent will also be extended a month.
Hawaii public schools, however, will still reopen as planned on Aug. 4, Ige said. He endorsed a blended learning model that rotates students onto campuses for some days of the week with distance learning on the other days to help keep the virus from spreading.
All four county mayors and Lt. Gov. Josh Green, an emergency room doctor, had urged the governor to hold off on the pre-flight testing plan and lifting of the quarantine, at least until additional safety measures could be put in place.
Yesterday's announcement came as the state reported three new deaths and 23 additional COVID-19 cases, which dramatically increased the state's coronavirus toll. On Saturday, Sunday and yesterday, there have been a total of 86 additional cases, the state Department of Health said.
"The best tribute to their lives and to the lives of all 22 people who’ve lost the fight against coronavirus, is getting everyone in Hawai‘i to take personal responsibility for their own health and the health of everyone around them,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson.
Among the three who died was an elderly Kauai resident who had been treated for several months in Arizona for underlying medical conditions. On Sunday, a female who had previously been a care home resident died in an Oahu hospital. The third death occurred on July 7. He was an elderly Oahu man also with underlying medical issues. His death was added to the total after a review of his health history and discussions with his physician.
The 42 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday was the most infections recorded in a single day since the outbreak began in spring. It followed Tuesday's 41 infections, the previous daily high.
Most of the new cases are associated with existing clusters, the health department said. The number tied to a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant training is now up to 44 cases. One person in that group is tied to infections at two Oahu gyms that now number 20 cases.
Other clusters have been associated with pau hana gatherings, businesses, urgent care and long-term care facilities, and household clusters that held birthday parties, Father’s Day celebrations, July 4th events and religious functions, the state said.
A health care worker who provided direct patient care at the Kona Community Hospital on the Big Island has tested positive. That person wore a mask and so far no additional cases have been detected, although one illness connected with the case is being investigated, Anderson said. The hospital presumably notified the patients as is standard protocol, he said.
Officials are also tracking three separate clusters at the Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe as well as "sporadic cases" that more than likely reflect community spread occurring on the Windward side of Oahu, said the state's Joint Information Center Saturday.
To date, 12 cases connected to the state hospital have been confirmed. As a precaution, the state tested at least 46 potential contacts in the clusters and all proved negative.
Another cluster at the Pearl City Nursing Home involves six residents and two staff thus far. Residents and workers will be retested.
A Nuuanu YMCA employee and a related person, a YMCA member, have both tested positive, according to the YMCA of Honolulu. They are not related to the breakouts in the Oahu gyms and a YMCA statement says the health department considers the cases the result of household transmission and not acquired at the YMCA.
Nuuanu YMCA members and program participants were not in close contact with either of the individuals, according to the statement.
Anderson said contact tracers can continue to manage the cases even when it spike to 40 or 50.
"It's hard to know exactly what that number might be. I would certainly say if we're over 100 cases a day, our resources would be strained even for that only for a few days," Anderson said. "The duration of the cases is also important. One or two days of high cases, as we had in the past week, we can keep up with, but if we had 40 or 50 cases a day every day, of course, that would stress our staff."
--HPR's Ashley MIzuo and Sandee Oshiro
Hawaii universities announce modified plans for out-of-state students
Non-resident college students will have to undergo a different kind of quarantine when they arrive for the fall semester.
Gov. David Ige announced yesterday he is extending the 14-day quarantine for trans-Pacific travelers until the end of August. That extension and reduced testing capability will affect the return of thousands of college students when classes resume next month.
University of Hawaii President David Lassner says the colleges statewide, including Hawaii Pacific University, Chaminade University and Brigham Young University-Hawaii, have developed a program to allow students back on campuses -- with added safety protections.
"The notion is that a student with a negative test, instead of being in a full lockdown quarantine for 14 days, would be in what we’re referring to as a modified bubble quarantine," said Lassner. "And with that negative test, they would be allowed to attend university activities only. Other than that, they would remain in their place of residence. We would ensure that they are fed -- and a really key aspect of the program is that we will be required to do daily health checks."
Lassner says students who don’t get a test or test positive will be in a full lockdown until they test negative or complete the 14-day quarantine.
The program will only apply to students attending college on Oahu and Kauai, where the mayors have agreed to the plan. Maui County and Hawaii Island have not yet agreed to the quarantine exemption for students, a university spokesman said by email.
--HPR's Casey Harlow
Congress may approve additional assistance
Hawaii Congressman Ed Case says prospects are looking up for another round of federal pandemic assistance.
Speaking remotely from Washington, D.C., Case told members of state House panel on COVID-19 response yesterday that he is encouraged by discussions taking place in Congress.
"While six weeks ago there was opposition to passing any emergency assistance, I think we’re beyond that and negotiations are very active among the House, Senate, and president over a bipartisan, non-partisan effort to advance that. Our expectation is that we would try to pass that by the end of July," he said.
But Case added it was still uncertain what would be included in such a package. He speculated that it would likely include some aid to state and local governments, additional support for unemployment, and another round of cash payments for individuals.
Funding for the previous rescue package, known as the CARES Act, expires at the end of the month. Case and others have called it a fiscal cliff.
If new funding is approved in July, money could begin reaching individuals and businesses sometime in August.
--HPR's Ryan Finnerty
Bill to prohibit flavoring vaping products gets killed once again
Disagreement between the state House and the Senate has effectively killed a bill banning flavored e-cigarette products.
It isn’t the first time a proposed ban has been stopped. A similar bill was killed in the House during the 2019 legislative session.
The ban on flavored e-cigarette products is part of a years-long effort to end the youth vaping epidemic in Hawaii.
In 2017, a study found that Hawaii high schoolers vaped twice as much as those nationally.
Supporters of the bill argue that flavored e-cigarette products target young people. Hawaii currently requires anyone to be 21 years old or older to purchase any vaping products. But children as young as 13 have been able to get around the law.
To be considered again, the bill must be re-introduced in the next legislative session.
--HPR's Amy Nakamura
Charter boat operators in rough waters
Normally, July would be peak season for blue marlin, ahi, and ono sport fishing in Hawai'i. Hundreds of small boat owners rent their vessels for sport or commercial outings, and fish on the side for local consumption.
Jerry Gilgren, a Hilo charter operator and independent commercial fisherman, estimates there are more than 100 small boat operators on Hawai'i island, all of whom have seen business drop as much as 90%.
Gilgren says federal aid has not been flowing for their particular mix of small crews and independent contractors.
"We still have the boat payments, we still have equipment to maintain, we still have the dock fees," he said. "And all these expenses that go out every month, there's nothing to replenish it. Unless we get side jobs. A lot of us are contractors, painters, electricians, and so on. We pick up side jobs to help us fund what we can."
In Honolulu, the city administration recently announced a plan to distribute $2.6 million dollars in federal COVID19 funding to longline fishermen and to the Honolulu Fish Auction. Gilgren says charter and independent fishermen are in a different sector, which is still awaiting aid.
--HPR's Noe Tanigawa
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.