The Latest: 1 Death, 130 New Cases; Tripler Gets COVID Vaccine; $7M Earmarked For Oahu COVID Efforts

Dec 18, 2020

Updated 12/18/20, 11:53 a.m.

The state Department of Health reported 130 new cases and one fatality Friday.

According to the state's numbers, Oʻahu had 104 new cases, Maui 11, Hawaiʻi County 7, Kauaʻi 1, Lanai and Molokaʻi had none.

The latest state counts bring the Oʻahu total to 16,760, Hawaiʻi County 1,770, Maui 746, Kauaʻi 136, Lanai 106 and Molokaʻi 22. The number of out-of-state cases total 320.

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 19,859 cases. The death toll stands at 281.

Tripler distributes COVID vaccine

Hawaiʻi's Tripler Army Medical Center is part of a Defense Department test project to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. The Oʻahu military hospital is one of 16 locations worldwide selected by the Pentagon to assess its ability to ship vaccine doses to military personnel, their families, and the department's civilian work force.

Much like the broader population, the military will prioritize healthcare workers and personnel in critical jobs for early vaccination, before shifting to those most vulnerable to infection.

"We've already had quite a few patients at the hospital, most of them are older, and we've had quite a few die unfortunately from COVID," said Col. Martin Doperak, a physician and Commander of Tripler Army Medical Center.

"So we're going to be going after that population, because that's what we want to stop; people dying from this disease. Only after we get through that will we offer it to our general masses, which is our younger active duty soldiers, our dependents, our retirees that are in good health."

Doparek did not say how many doses of the Pfizer vaccine the center received, citing operational security. But he did say the facility has the ultra-cold freezer storage needed for it.

-- HPR's Ryan Finnerty

Honolulu earmarks $7M to continue COVID efforts

Mayor Kirk Caldwell plans to spend as much as $7 million to finance an additional six months of efforts to address COVID-19. Caldwell announced during a Thursday press conference that the money will be used for COVID testing and contact tracing, and extending a partnership with the Pearl Hotel in Waikīkī -- for isolation purposes.

The money was originally going into Honolulu's "rainy day fund" -- which currently has $130 million.

Caldwell says it's important to use the money to maintain the city's efforts in testing, contact tracing and isolation -- or what he refers to as legs on a stool.

"If we allowed it, because CARES money is running out at the end of this year, those three legs of the stool collapse," Caldwell said. "And there's no protocols in place going forward into the New Year -- at least for the City and County of Honolulu."

Managing Director Roy Amemiya expects $5.6 million of the  to go to city programs, and the remaining funds to be in reserve for additional things that may come up.

The estimated cost breakdown for the city's efforts are as follows:

  • John A. Burns School of Medicine COVID testing laboratory -- $25,000/month
  • OmniTrak (contact tracing) -- $70,400/month
  • Pearl Waikīkī (isolation rooms) -- $639,000/month
  • Office of Economic Revitalization (City COVID call center and business outreach) -- $154,000/month

Caldwell says the funds should cover the city's efforts until the end of the fiscal year. He says the city's efforts will not be as extensive as they have been in the last several months, due to limited funding, but the services will still be available.

-- HPR's Casey Harlow


Vaccine rollout for homeless

Outreach workers helping the homeless on Oʻahu say they expect to be part of the second phase of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Jill Wright at the Institute for Human Services says "it remains to be seen whether our health clinic nurses and outreach workers may be able to be prioritized due to their increased risk of exposure."

IHS Director Connie Mitchell says that as Christmas approaches, the organization looks to add a little more to its usual services.

"We're always wondering how we can help people have a spark of joy and peace when they're in a crisis. And our goal is to help them forget they're homeless for at least that one day," Mitchell said. 

Mitchell says in the past year, IHS has worked with the state rent relief program to keep more than 700 people in housing, who otherwise would be on the street.

She says IHS is still looking for donations for adults -- especially toiletry items and clothes.

-- HPR's Noe Tanigawa