The Latest: 0 Deaths, 114 COVID-19 Cases; Arrivals Starting Tomorrow Need Negative Test In Hand

Nov 23, 2020

Updated: 11/23/2020, 12:45 p.m.

The state Department of Health reported no deaths and 114 new COVID-19 cases today. Because of the department's two-day delay in posting new numbers, the counts represent cases from Saturday.

Oahu had 80 new cases, Hawaii County 10, Kauai 3, Maui 11, and Lanai and Molokai none. There were 10 new cases diagnosed out of state.

The latest counts bring the Oahu total to 14,873, Hawaii County, 1,551, Kauai 100, Maui 495, Lanai 106 and Molokai 17. The number of out-of-state cases total 191.

Since the pandemic began, the state has seen 17,333 cases; deaths stand at 233.

Negative results required prior to travel starting tomorrow

Starting tomorrow, travelers wanting to skip the mandatory two-week quarantine will need to submit their negative COVID-19 test results to the state before arriving in the islands. The change came at the request of Neighbor Island mayors who are seeing infections rising with the opening of quarantine-free travel under the state's Safe Travels program.

Since mid-October when the program launched, passengers have been able to arrive in the islands from the U.S. mainland without their negative results but they had to enter quarantine. Once their results were received and submitted to the state, they could then travel freely.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami was particularly upset with the number of passengers who arrived on Kauai then learned of their positive results. There were 12 such cases as of yesterday, according to a county news release.

The Kauai District Health Office reported four new cases of COVID-19, all travel-related and all who had negative pre-travel tests and subsequently tested positive on the island. Three are residents and one is a visitor.

One resident case was detected through the county’s post-travel testing center. Close contacts of the person infected are being identified, directed to quarantine and offered testing.

The island now has 23 confirmed active cases, all in isolation, with one hospitalized. The health department is monitoring  99 people in quarantine. 

Kauai now has a total case count of 113. One hundred were confirmed locally, one is a probable case, and 12 are positive cases that were diagnosed elsewhere with results reported after they arrived.

The county continues to run a voluntary post-travel testing program for tourists and one for returning residents

The county is also holding free surge testing for residents every Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., through the end of the year. Information is available at kauai.gov/test.

City, HART say they are working together to get rail finished

Honolulu’s rail project is starting over in awarding a contract to build the final stretch of the rail line to Ala Moana, with what the city and Honolulu Authority For Rapid Transportation say is a unified effort.

The city declined to rejoin a partnership that would construct the last four miles, citing costs and other issues. Despite efforts by the HART's CEO Andy Robbins to keep the concept alive, the city rejected the so-called P3 partnership.

HART will now cancel the public-private partnership and instead look once more to hire contractors to complete the project.

Robbins and Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who had been feuding over the project's future direction, met on Friday in a two-hour discussion on next steps.

They say they will work together to devise a plan for the project's final phase that they can submit to the Federal Transit Administration that oversees funding of the estimated $11 billion project.

Caldwell says the city and HART must send the plan to the federal agency by year's end to avoid the loss of $250 million dollars in rail funds.

"We thought it was critical for both sides to start talking right now, no delay, because again, we want to make sure that the $250 million that could lapse at the end of the year is not lapsed, and that we show good faith and hard work to keep that from occurring with the FTA.

"The discussions definitely will go on into the new mayor's term. That's why in the letters that we've been writing to HART and HART has been writing to us, we've been copying the mayor-elect, Rick Blangiardi, and his managing director-designate, Mike Formby, so they're informed to know what's going on.

"But to wait until the new mayor comes in to even begin discussions, I think is very dangerous when you're trying to convince the FTA not to let the 250 million lapse."

Robbins says it may be another year before the city and HART can award a contract to build the final phase. The last segment is the most difficult because it involves relocation of utilities along the Dillingham Boulevard.

The Caldwell administration estimates the project may not be completed until 2033.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

After 'Temptation Island,' second production starting up on Maui

Filming has wrapped for the "Temptation Island" TV series on Maui but another production is ramping up.

There's been controversy around the work on TV shows and movies in the midst of a pandemic. Maui Film Commissioner Tracy Bennett says the productions benefit the local economy.

He cited figures from the "Temptation Island" show, which was based at the Andaz Maui hotel.

"They spent roughly $8.1 million here in Maui. Of that, nearly $2 million were spent on local businesses and vendors. For every dollar spent by the production, 40 cents went into the pocket of every crew member.

"They hired almost 100 local crew and 75 Andaz employees got to go back to work. The show will air on USA Network in March of 2021. The show is donating six 20 by 30 tents to South Maui schools to help with distance outdoor learning, roughly the equivalent of almost $20,000 in donation value.

"One of the most important stats that I want to read today in these COVID times are that they administered 3,600 COVID tests with zero positive."

The HBO mini-series "White Lotus" has began production at the Four Seasons Resort Maui. It's on schedule to finish before Christmas. Bennett says the show will be filming around Maui and is in the process of applying for the required permits.

Groups of Maui residents protested the "Temptation Island" production in August and September, saying it lacked sufficient safety measures.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

Makena State Park parties, drum circles broken up by conservation officers

State Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officers broke up a gathering at Little Beach in Makena Beach Park on Maui Saturday night.

The site has been used for night parties and drum circles, where the state said alcohol and drug use, nudity and littering have been with frequent problems. 

The officers cited one woman for having alcohol in a state park and issued warnings to others for breaking COVID-19 safety rules. "Many of the beach goers were not physically distancing or wear [sic] masks when close to others," the department said in a news release.

The department did not say how many people were at the gatherings. But a DLNR video shows dozens of people on the beach, many without masks and not observing social distancing.

The video also shows enforcement officers citing a woman for alcohol possession in a state park, which is prohibited. She identified herself as a Colorado nurse who has been on Maui since last Monday.

UH receives grant to develop Pacific Islander-focused pandemic efforts

The University of Hawai’i is receiving nearly $1 million dollars in federal funding to create culturally tailored strategies to increase COVID-19 testing among Pacific Islanders in Hawai’i and Guam.

The grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow public health experts to work with community groups on the frontline to develop engagement strategies around COVID-19 testing.

The project is called Puipuia le Ola, which is Samoan for “protecting life.” It will provide organizations serving Pacific Islanders in Hawai’i and Guam with resources necessary to help increase testing.

The grant also gives Pacific Islanders a voice in how best to engage the community on testing. 

UH medical school professor Tina Tauasosi-Posiulai, one of the project’s researchers, says the culturally appropriate strategies created will be provided to Pacific Islander communities in Hawai’i and Guam in their native languages.

Pacific Islanders in Hawai’i have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases but only 4 percent of the population.

--HPR's Ku‘uwehi Hiraishi