The Latest: 1 Death, 71 New Cases; 2 More Travel-Related Cases On Kauai

Nov 18, 2020

Updated: 11/18/20, 12:08 p.m. The state Department of Health today reported one new death and 71 new COVID-19 cases.

With the state’s recent reporting changes that delays the numbers for two days, the daily case counts are from Monday. The health department said the receipt of 4,000 to 5,000 electronic records daily from the labs that handle the tests take time to process, accounting for the delay.

DOH shares the data it compiles with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and the counties. Both DOH and HIEMA then post the numbers online, but having two agencies handle the data is not the reason for the delay, said Janice Okubo, health department spokeswoman, by email.

Based on the latest numbers, Oahu saw 59 new cases, Hawaii County 2, Kauai 0, Maui 2 and Lanai and Molokai 0. Eight more out-of-state cases were reported.

Oahu has recorded 14,431 cases, Hawaii County 1,487, Maui 454, Lanai 106, Kauai 82 and Molokai 17. There have been 157 cases diagnosed out of state. The death toll rose to 223.

While the daily counts are what the DOH has been highlighting on its website and news releases, Okubo said residents should pay attention to week-long averages.

“The focus should be directed to the 7-day average which best reflects the status of the pandemic in Hawaii and is used as a metric for the City & County tiers,” said Okubo by email.

2 more travel-related COVID cases on Kauai

Kauai continues to see new travel-related coronavirus cases, with the latest two described as male visitors who had negative test results before they arrived and later tested positive on the island.

According to the Kauai District Health Office yesterday, the two visitors are in isolation and not hospitalized. Their close contacts have been asked to quarantine and were offered testing.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami has asked the governor to approve emergency orders that would provide more safeguards for the island as travel-connected cases increase.

By the county's count, total cases now stand at 94 with 84 confirmed on-island, one probable and nine confirmed positive based on tests conducted out-of-state or off-island but reported after the individual's arrival or return to Kauai.

Kauai had kept its case count to about 60 until the state Safe Travels program launched on Oct. 15 and allowed passengers to take a pre-flight test and avoid quarantine if they test negative. Cases have since increased on the island, which has limited hospital capacity.

The island is now in Tier 4 of its reopening plan, the least restrictive of four stages. It is currently at an average of 1.71 daily cases with a 0.9% positivity rate.

But if cases rise and remain above a weekly average of two cases per day for two weeks or if the positivity rate increases and stays above a weekly average of 1% for two weeks, the county will move to Tier 3 and more restrictions.

Kauai now has 14 active cases, two of whom are hospitalized, three who are in an isolation facility, and nine who are isolated at home. Sixty-five others who are close contacts are in quarantine and monitored by the state Department of Health.

Mayor urges Oahu residents to have small Thanksgiving gatherings

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is urging residents not to hold large gatherings for Thanksgiving, saying the city’s economy depends on keeping COVID-19 cases in check.

Caldwell made his remarks at a blessing of a homeless facility in Kalihi yesterday.

Oahu’s latest seven-day average of new COVID cases stands at 73 with a positivity rate of 2.8 percent.

The city needs lower numbers than those to further ease restrictions under its reopening plan.

But the upcoming holiday worries Caldwell.

“I believe we do really believe in kuleana, and protecting each other. So think about the risk you cause and think about the economic harm you can cause, if we see the type of spread we see on the continent,” the mayor said.

“I never want to do another ‘Stay at Home, Work from Home’ order. But if we don’t, if we see a significant spread, people will stay at home. They won’t go out. Businesses will suffer. There’ll be more destruction – economic destruction – and there will be more deaths. So we, really, please, this Thanksgiving, keep it small.”

Gatherings both indoors and outdoors are limited to a total of five people under the city’s current safety mandate.

Those convicted of violating the order face a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to a year in jail.
More information about the city’s COVID-19 plans can be found at oneoahu.org.

--HPR’s Casey Harlow

Convention Center adjusts in pandemic, plans for future

The state-owned Hawaii Convention Center has been pivoting during the pandemic, along with other venues dependent on visitors.

As events were canceled or pushed into the future because of COVID-19, the center converted its meeting rooms into locations for government services. That included space for unemployment processing, contact tracing and ballot counting during this year's election.

General Manager Teri Orton says the convention center is looking ahead to when it can resume activity.

"We continue to keep our center open and our focus for at least the immediate future, short-term business will be local or local events. There's a lot of corporations and companies out there that still want to hold their annual meetings and conferences,” she said.

“And then of course working with our hotel partners and sales teams to look at a brighter future for conventions and larger meetings, moving forward."

Orton says the center is working with meeting planners who hope a vaccine will make it possible to hold events next year or beyond.

She spoke yesterday at a webinar sponsored by the University of Hawaii's Shidler College of Business alumni association.

Surveillance testing continues to show low numbers of positive cases

Lt. Gov. Josh Green's office says the surveillance testing of passengers after arrival who participated in the pre-flight test program is continuing to show a small number testing positive.

The surveillance testing program randomly checks about 10 percent of those who take the pre-flight test to gauge how many arrivals may be positive. As of yesterday, there have been 24 confirmed positives out of 17,146 tests or 1.4 per 1,000 since the surveillance effort launched on Oct. 19.

"The first month of our study's preliminary results are bearing out our thesis that Hawaii's Safe Travels program is keeping COVID-positive travel rates exceptionally low," said Dr. DeWolfe Miller, University of Hawaii epidemiologist, who is leading the surveillance testing study.

Hawaii also has the lowest rate of confirmed cases nationally at 51.5 cases per 100,000 people as of Nov 14, the lieutenant governor's office said. It also said Hawaii has the second lowest death rate at 0.2 deaths per 100,000.

Meanwhile, a member of the Hawaii Air National Guard has died from the coronavirus, the first member of the Guard to be felled by the virus, the state Department of Defense said. 

The 52-year-old airman tested positive last week and died Sunday. He served as a part-time reservist assigned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam.

"This personal loss reminds us that Hawaii needs everyone to comply with safe practices to prevent further spread of this deadly disease," said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Hawaii state adjutant general.