Updated: 7/27/2020, 12:17 p.m.
The Hawaii Department of Health reported 28 new COVID-19 cases today, all on Oahu. The daily count is far fewer than have been reported in recent record-setting days but also comes after a weekend when Hurricane Douglas stopped regular activity.
The health department investigators put out a call to anyone who visited two Honolulu bars, Brix & Bones at 1217 Hopaka St. and Arena 808 at 1020 Keeaumoku St., between July 16-26. The customers are asked to step forward and contact their physicians to get checked for COVID-19.
So far five cases at the two bars have been associated with exposure to the virus. DOH believes as many as seven positive cases are possibly tied to these clusters.
“Given the conditions associated with this cluster, we’re concerned there may be more persons exposed than are or can be identified through our investigations," said state Epidemiologist Sarah Park. "In the interest of public health we’re asking anyone who was in either of these bars during the 10-day period to consult their healthcare provider to consider being tested for COVID-19.”
Park said investigators found inconsistent wearing of masks, physical distancing, and other requirements not in line with City and County of Honolulu rules.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said last week that the DOH was investigating a COVID-19 cluster at a bar, the first that he had heard of. The bar had been the location of a gathering for a UFC fight. He said no one was wearing face coverings, which is required by a city mandate, and that bouncers, patrons and bartenders had tested positive.
Health officials say the surge in cases that the state has been seeing recently are threatening the state's reopening. There are calls for rollbacks to restrictions that had been imposed when daily cases were even lower than where they are now.
The higher numbers are also a factor in the debate over whether public schools should reopen on Aug. 4 as scheduled.
Health officials urge residents and visitors to wear face masks even at family gatherings, physically distance, practice good hygiene and not go out if they feel sick.
The state total now stands at 1,711 cases. Out of that total, 1,373 are cases on Oahu, 153 in Maui County, 117 in Hawaii County, and 45 in Kauai County. One case was dropped from Oahu's count based on updated information. There were 23 residents diagnosed outside of the state. One-hundred sixty-five people have been hospitalized, 1,191 released from isolation and 26 deaths.
Officials now consider takeaways from Hurricane Douglas
There were some lessons learned from Hurricane Douglas as the state and counties today assess what damage resulted from the category 1 hurricane and review their response to the first tropical cyclone of the season in the midst of a pandemic.
At 5 a.m. today, Douglas had "gone on its merry way," said Robert Ballard, science and operations officer with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.
Forecasters canceled the hurricane warning for Kauai as of 2 a.m. today and one for Oahu at 11 last night. While the hurricane did not make a direct hit, it came uncomfortably close -- between 20 to 40 miles at its nearest point, said Ballard.
A flash flood watch remains in effect for Kauai but otherwise Douglas is no longer a major threat to the main Hawaiian Islands. Still, Ballard noted this is just the start of the hurricane season. He urged everyone to remain prepared and keep emergency supplies on hand.
Last located 90 miles east of Lihue, the hurricane was tracking west-northwest at 17 mph and with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. A hurricane watch is in effect for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument from French Frigate Shoals to Maro Reef.
National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Lau said there was a "razor thin" line -- 20 to 30 miles -- between a miss and the islands seeing major impacts from Douglas.
"We were fairly lucky that the main Hawaiian Islands were pretty much in the southwest quadrant," he said, referring to a portion of the hurricane that was less of a threat.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said last night the city was likely to issue an all-clear this morning.
"While it appears we’ve dodged another bullet, we are not out of the woods yet,” said Caldwell. “There is still a threat of strong winds, heavy rain and potential flooding from Hurricane Douglas. We’re cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to issue an all clear early tomorrow morning, but our city staff is continuing to monitor any effects this storm may have overnight."
But this morning, the city was announcing it would be closing its 13 emergency shelters at 7 a.m.
City offices will be closed today, although employees assigned to recovery efforts will be working.
TheBus and TheHandi-Van services are resuming today by 6 a.m. Some services may be affected, however, and passengers can check for updates at thebus.org or the city Department of Transportation Services' Twitter page.
Hawaii County and Maui County weathered the hurricane without major impacts.
The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said no heavy rains, strong winds or damaging surf were reported and all roads were open. County coastal parks on east-facing shores will remain closed, however, until assessed this morning.
Maui Mayor Michel Victorino said the county sustained no major damage, although there were reports of debris, fallen trees, downed telephone poles and downed power lines. The public can report any storm-related damage on the county's website.
Maui County offices open today and county buses will operate. But parks, pools and the Waiehu golf course will remain closed for assessment and safety precautions. Landfills and recycling centers will remain closed and residential curbside trash pickup for today will be rescheduled for tomorrow.
The Maui County-YMCA summer youth program resumes today at War Memorial Gym and Eddie Tam Gym. The South Maui Community Park Gym will remain closed for cleaning and sanitization since it was used as an emergency shelter.
Maui County emergency shelters were closed after the cancellation of the hurricane warning.
“We are very fortunate to not have any reported injuries or major damages, but I continue to ask our community to be cautious when leaving your home. Workers still need to conduct clean-up operations and repairs, so please be advised of any road closures or advisories,” the mayor said in a news release.
State offices will be closed today. The state Legislature also notified its staff to remain at home.
The University of Hawaii campuses on Oahu and Kauai are closed today but UH campuses on Maui and the Big Island are scheduled to open.
Day of worry and waiting
Yesterday was a nerve-wracking day for many residents. Outdoor emergency sirens were sounded on Maui at 8:30 a.m. and on Oahu starting at 11 a.m., alerting residents to the approaching hurricane.
Residents scrambled to make last-minute preparations and cleared some stores of emergency items, all while trying to maintain face masks and social distancing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency shelters opened on Oahu, Maui County and Kauai County.
One of the largest, the Hawaii Convention Center, took in about 300 people, officials said. All were required to get their temperature checked, answer health questions, wear face coverings and socially distance themselves to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Post-Douglas assessment and review
Gov. David Ige said last night one of the things the state has learned from Hurricane Douglas is the need for more volunteers in an emergency.
"Many of the volunteers are the retired individuals who are vulnerable during this pandemic. Certainly we need to be working with the Red Cross and private and public entities to add or increase the emergency shelters," he said.
The American Red Cross, which manages emergency shelters for the counties, put out an urgent call for help after it lost 70% of its volunteers over concerns about COVID-19.
With Douglas now in the history books, Ige can return to other pressing issues -- including the controversial reopening of public schools scheduled for Aug. 4.
Ige said he had spoken with School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto about Hurricane Douglas preparations and so conversations about welcoming students back onto campus had to wait.
"I think as the hurricane passes and things get back to normal, then we will look at the challenges of reopening schools and make an assessment about whether any adjustments or changes need to be made," he said.
Federal, state, county proclamations made resources available
President Trump had approved a federal disaster declaration in advance of Hurricane Douglas, making federal resources available for disaster preparation and response. County mayors issued emergency proclamations following Gov. David Ige declaration Thursday, allowing the state to respond quickly to impacts from Douglas.
Ige also said he was prepared to activate Hawaii National Guard, beyond those assigned for COVID-19 assistance, to help with any hurricane-related impacts.
Those abiding by the mandatory 14-day travel quarantine were told to remain in quarantine, Ige said. But if they needed supplies, they could break quarantine as a last resort, but maintain social distance and carry out other practices to reduce the risk of virus spread.
Shelters were limited, COVID-challenged
Because of COVID-19 physical distancing requirements, emergency shelters could accommodate significantly fewer residents who need to be sheltered. Where each person would normally be allocated 10 square feet, concerns about spread
The counties urged residents and visitors to shelter in place or with friends or family and only use the shelters as a last resort if they needed to evacuate. Anyone going to a shelter, were told to bring their own food, water, medicine, blankets and COVID-19 supplies, such as face masks and hand sanitizer.