Hawaii Updates: 3 New Cases; State Warns Against Scams; Lawmakers Call For More Nursing Home Tests

Jun 23, 2020

Where we stand

The Hawaii Department of Health reported 3 new COVID-19 cases today. All three cases are on Oahu.Today's low number of new cases marks the second day of single-digit increases since the weekend.

Four new cases were reported yesterday. Eleven were reported on Sunday following Saturday's 14 cases, Friday's 27 cases, Thursday's 18 cases, Wednesday's 5 cases, Tuesday's 4 cases, Mondayʻs 8 cases and last Sunday's 5 cases. 

There is now a total of 819 total cases of COVID-19 after the state adjusted its count to remove two cases. The number of deaths remains at 17. Of the total cases, 104 have required hospitalization. The count includes Hawaii residents who were hospitalized out of state. Some 673 have been released from isolation.

The case count for Oahu now stands at 571, Maui County at 122, Hawaii County at 85, and Kauai County at 29. Kauai County's newest cases are the first on the island since early April.

The cases include a new one at the Hale Nani Rehabilitaion and Nursing Center. The stateʻs largest skilled nursing facility reported a total of 15 cases tested positive as of Monday, including 9 residents and 5 staff members.

The facility also took in an additional COVID-positive patient from a hospital for a total of 16 positive cases.

In addition, the health department reports it is investigating two new cases at a Kaneohe care home. That brings the total number of cases associated with community care homes in three separate locations on Oahu to eight. Weekly testing as well as investigations are continuing at the sites.

Health officials say they believe the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases resulted from Hawaii residents growing lax about adhering to safe practices as the state reopens. They continue to urge that residents wear face masks when out and about, practice social distancing and wash hands frequently.

Legislators want more nursing home testing in wake of case spikes

State House lawmakers are calling for broad testing at Hawaii nursing homes in compliance with recent Centers of Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and in the wake of increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases at local nursing and community care homes.

House Health Chair John Mizuno and Rep. Rida Cabanilla, a registered nurse, said all facilities should have testing made available for their residents. 

"With the recent outbreak of positive COVID-19 cases at nursing homes in Hawaii, it is essential that we have nursing homes and community care homes align with CDC guidelines for testing their staff and patients. The testing will offer a much-needed layer of protection for our elderly and disabled," said Mizuno.

Cabanilla pointed to the high death rates among nursing homes elsewhere. "We are in the middle of a pandemic, we must learn from the mistakes and devastation of the elderly population in nursing homes everywhere from Seattle to Brazil," she said.

State warns COVID-19 scammers are multiplying

State officials say numerous scams have cropped up associated with the coronavirus, with some scammers posing as contact tracers.

The state health department has legitimate contact tracers who call residents that have been in close contact with someone infected with the virus. But if residents get a call asking for certain personal information, beware: calls, text or social media messages, or emails seeking Social Security numbers, bank information or a request for money should be a red flag.

One such scam says you have come into contact with someone with the virus, advises you to self-isolate and provides a link that can contain malware. Another involves a robocall that says you've been exposed to COVID-19 and you should talk to a "contact tracer" to verify personal information.

For more information on protecting yourself against such scams, you can visit the state Office of Consumer Protection's COVID-19 resource website.

Waikiki visitor jailed in quarantine violation case

Special agents with the state attorney generalʻs office arrested a visitor from Maine after a Waikiki hotel general manager reported the guest had violated the mandatory 14-day travel quarantine.

Sean Michael Simon, 38, of Bangor, Maine, was arrested after hotel video showed he had left the hotel after arriving on June 10.

Yesterdayʻs Hawaii Updates: Hale Nani Cases Total 15, Company-Run Center in Utah Reports 10 Dead; 4 New Cases

Simon admitted to visiting the beach and shopping every day, the state said in a news release. His bail was set at $2,000 and he spent the weekend in jail before his arraignment Monday.

He pleaded out and was taken to the airport, where he left on a one-way flight back to Maine, paid for by the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii.

Late state senator memorialized during floor session

State senators remembered their colleague, the late Breene Harimoto, during Monday’s floor session. 

Harimoto passed away Thursday after a prolonged battled with pancreatic cancer.

He continued to serve his Aiea-Pearl City-Pearl Harbor district during the Legislature’s regular session earlier this year. He previously served as a Honolulu City Council member and chairman of the state Board of Education.

Senators spoke of Harimoto’s kindness, his faith, and his commitment to his convictions and community.

Flowers and a portrait of Harimoto were placed on his desk on the Senate floor as the Legislature reconvened Monday to take up bill in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maui prosecutor creates new traffic crime unit

The Maui County Department of the Prosecuting Attorney has created a dedicated unit for motor vehicle-related homicides, habitual alcohol and drug impaired driving, and felony injury due to speeding and distracted driving.

The new unit will work with Maui police, which has its own vehicular homicide unit and DUI unit.  

Maui saw 21 traffic crashes in 2019 ended in 23 fatalities. Of the fatal crashes, 80% involved either alcohol, drugs or both, and speed was a factor in 33% of the fatal crashes.

“The people of Maui County deserve this additional level of protection, and I hope this unit will continue to reduce the number of fatalities on our highways,” Mayor Michael Victorino said in a news release.

Maui elderly can still get transportation help, home-delivered meals

Despite COVID-19, eligible Maui County seniors can still seek help with transportation and meals delivered to their homes through Kaunoa Senior Services, officials said.

While Kaunoaʻs leisure and nutrition classes and activities remain suspended to prevent the spread of the virus, other services are still available. .

More information about Kaunoa services is available by calling 808-270-7308.

Free Kona drive-through meals set for Thursday

Community meals will be available without charge in Kona on Thursday at the Laiopua Commuity Center.

Ippy's Hawaiian Barbeque is distributing the meals from 5 p.m. until the food runs out at the community center, 74-5210 Keanalehu Drive.

Participants are asked not to exist their cars; volunteers will bring out the food. One meal per person in the car is allowed. No mass pickups are permitted.

A meal of roast pork, steamed white rice and corn will be served.

50 homeless served at Iwilei COVID-19 isolation facility

The first temporary quarantine and isolation center in Iwilei for homeless showing symptoms of the coronavirus has served more than 50 individuals since its inception two months ago.

The city first secured the facility in early spring. The state Department of Health now runs the facility with the Institute for Human Services, Hawai‘i Homeless Healthcare Hui and Unite HERE, Local 5. 

The state said data collected from the individuals showed the facility has freed up hospital space, saved on medical costs and helped protect the community from potentially infected persons. It has also served as a behavioral health crisis stabilization center, where health problems, mental illness and issues like substance abuse can be addressed.

Several of the homeless served by the Iwilei facility have been reconnected with their families or  transitioned into housing, the state said.

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.