Hawaii Updates: 27 New Cases Today, 17 Tied To A Funeral; City Bus Driver Tests Positive

Jun 28, 2020

Updated: 6/28/2020, 3:30 p.m.

The state Department of Health reported 27 new COVID-19 cases today, with 17 of them tied to an Oahu funeral. Of today's new cases, 23 are from Oahu, 1 on Hawaii Island, 2 on Kauai and 1 in Maui County. The operator of city's bus system also said one of its bus drivers has tested positive, the first case of a driver who fell ill while in service.

The bus driver who typically worked out of the Pearl City division drove several routes over the past week but it's not known how the driver got infected, according to the Oahu Transit Services Inc. OTS operates TheBus and TheHandiVan for the city.

In a press conference today televised by KITV, OTS President Roger Morton and his staff said the driver became ill last week Monday but continued to work until he was tested on Friday. He received the results Saturday and the company was informed last night.

The company will be looking into whether the driver violated company policy by working while sick, said Morton. 

The driver is in quarantine, along with two other bus employees. The city said the state health department will be conducting contact tracing and the public will be informed about which routes the driver worked once that information is available.

OTS said in a news release that all of the buses operated by the driver have been deep cleaned and disinfected.

The cases associated with the funeral were identified with intensive contact tracing, the state said in a press release, and all have been isolated. Contact tracing also identified 6 cases in Leeward Oahu tied to known cases and they, too, are in isolation.

The two new Kauai cases are tied to the outbreak reported last week and the Hawaii Island case is tied to travel from Georgia. There were no immediate details provided on the Maui case.

There has now been a total of 899 cases of COVID-19 statewide. The number of deaths stands at 18. Of the total cases, 111 have required hospitalization. The count includes Hawaii residents who were hospitalized out of state. Some 719 people have been released from isolation.

The case count for Oahu now stands at 636, Maui County at 123, Hawaii County at 87, and Kauai County at 37. There is a total of 16 residents who were diagnosed outside of Hawai’i.

On Friday, officials announced Hawaii's 18th death from COVID-19. He was an elderly Honolulu man whose coronavirus death was the first in the islands since May 3. 

The newest jump in cases and the 18th death come as the state plans for a partial lifting of the visitor quarantine on Aug. 1.

Gov. David Ige expressed his condolences to the man's family and friends and reiterated the need to continue safe practices in the pandemic.

"We must protect our kupuna and others who are at high risk, by practicing personal responsibility, especially around others outside our own immediate family or household," Ige said in a media release Friday.

The state Department of Health also said that many residents are growing lax in their practices and attitudes about COVID-19. The number of people who considered the virus as a very serious health concern fell from 73% to 54% in less than two months, based on survey results.

The department said what is more alarming is that fewer residents are following safety recommendations "most of the time" or "part of the time."

Health Director Bruce Anderson said it is critically important that residents take the virus seriously.

“Recently, we’ve seen an increase in cases from community transmission," Anderson said. "We cannot interpret the reopening of businesses, restaurants, parks and other places as a license to let our guards down. Indeed, it is more important than ever to adhere to prevention measures we know work.”

Health officials say they believe the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases resulted from Hawaii residents becoming less vigilant. They continue to urge that residents to wear face masks when out and about, practice social distancing and wash hands frequently.

On Saturday, there were 6 cases. On Friday, there were 17 new cases and, on Thursday, 16 new cases. Wednesday also saw 16 new cases, but on Tuesday, only 3 new cases were reported and 4 on Monday. 

City reopen camping, picnic events with permits

The city reopened camping and picnic events with permits this weekend, although with limits on the number of campsites allowed and safety requirements in place.

 

Only about half of the campsites will be allowed to permit physical distancing. The regular camping procedures and rules are in effect and city campsites are closed at least on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

 

Camping permits can be made online through the city website at camping.honolulu.gov. Reservations open every Friday at 5 p.m. two weeks ahead of camping periods.

 

Bellows Field Beach Park campground remains closed until Sept. 4 to protect sea turtles during nesting season. Beach off-road driving or camping in the area is illegal and violations can be reported to the conservation law enforcement office at 808-285-9529.

 

Campers must dispose of any grilling coals in designated bins only; they are not permitted on the sand or near trees. If no charcoal bin is available, douse the coals with water, stir, and when fully extinguished, throw them in the regular trash bin.

 

Picnic permits are required for outdoor events where 50 people or more will attend or where inflatable structures known as bouncy houses will be used. No more than 100 people are allowed at the events.

 

To apply for a picnic permit, call the park location; phone numbers are on the Department of Parks and Recreation interactive map: bit.ly/OahuParkMap

 

Team practices and volunteer and community service events were allowed to resume on June 19. Permitted team competitions and games can begin on July 3. Commercial activity permits began on June 15.

 

Physical distancing and facial covering requirements are detailed in Mayor’s Order 2020-15.

 

Friday arrivals see drop in visitors 

 

Some 1,273 people arrived in Hawaii Friday, with 333 visitors and 324 returning residents, fewer than in recent days for both categories. During the same period last year, about 35,000 passengers arrived in the islands daily, counting both residents and visitors, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

 

Also arriving Friday were 192 crew members, 189 military, 94 transiting travelers, 73 exempt from quarantine, and 68 relocating to Hawaii.

 

The 14-day mandatory self-quarantine remains in effect for all arrivals through July 31. On Aug. 1, out of state arrivals can avoid quarantine by documenting a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their flights.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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.