The Latest: 3 Deaths, 102 New Cases; City Reopening In The Works; Kauai Allowing 'Bubbles'

Sep 16, 2020

Updated: 9/16/2020, 12:10 p.m.

The Hawaii Department of Health today reported three more deaths from COVID-19 and 102 new cases. The daily infections are up to triple digits again after two days when daily infections had fallen below 100. 

With new cases generally on a decline, the city is expected to soon announce its plans to ease the restrictions of Oahu's stay-at-home, work-from-home order that is in effect through Sept. 23.

Today's latest counts bring the total death toll to 103 and cases statewide to 10,946. 

There have now been 9,879 cases on Oahu, 603 on Hawaii Island, 378 for Maui County, and 58 on Kauai. Twenty-eight residents have been diagnosed out of state. 

Yesterday's one death was an Oahu man in his 60s with underlying medical conditions who had been hospitalized.

The department said there were no new deaths Monday, but a total of 25 deaths associated with a positive result are pending receipt of records. Ten are pending a final medical examiner report.

It's not immediately clear if any are related to the mounting deaths at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo.

On Sunday, the state reported two deaths, both on Oahu. The deaths were a man in his 50s and a woman in her 70s, both with underlying medical conditions. On Saturday, an Oahu woman in her 30s with health conditions who had been hospitalized also passed away.

City preparing to reopen with measures in place

The Caldwell administration has an idea of how it wants to reopen Honolulu and plans to announce it soon. A stay-at-home, work-from-home order has kept residents mostly at home and many businesses closed since Aug. 26. 

The second lockdown followed a surge in COVID-19 cases. But new cases have been declining along with the positivity rate measuring prevalence of the virus among those tested.

The City Council’s executive matters committee reviewed the city’s order and plans for a reopening during its meeting yesterday.

City Managing Director Roy Amemiya says the administration will be using two metrics to determine how it will ease restrictions.

"Positive cases for every 100,000 residents. So we’ll pick a number, somewhere between 70 and 100, and we have a number in mind – just not ready to introduce it. And also test positive rates," he said. "So in other words, not just taking that top line number, but dividing it by the number of tests that are actually taken to come up with a percentage. Those are the two metrics that we’re pretty much going to be using.'

Amemiya says those measures will determine which businesses and activities will reopen and in what order.

He says the new guidelines will take effect on Sept. 24 – with more specifics to be announced before then.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

People's Open Markets to reopen Saturday

The People's Open Markets will resume regular hours beginning Saturday, the city announced.

The markets were closed on Aug. 8 due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Physical distancing and mask wearing will be enforced.

More information is available on the open markets website.

Kauai mayor announces 'resort bubble' program

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami says a new emergency rule will allow visitors to leave their hotel rooms to use a resort property's amenities during their mandatory two-week quarantine.

Under the "resort bubble" program, hotels would establish security and enforcement policies to protect the safety of guests and workers at the resort. Mask-wearing and physical distancing would be required.

Visitors would need to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet tracked by the resort. The guests can then have full run of the resort property, including use of on-site pools and restaurants. 

If the bracelet is tampered with or the guest leaves the resort property, hotel security will notify Kauai police.

"The Resort Bubble program is an added tool to reopening our economy while we learn to co-exist with this virus," the mayor said. "It's not a replacement or the final solution, and we will continue to keep our community updated as we make progress." 

Lieutenant governor's family tests negative

Lt. Gov Josh Green's office yesterday announced his wife and two children have tested negative. The lieutenant governor received results Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and has been in quarantine.

His positive results followed the finding that a deputy sheriff assigned to his security detail had tested positive for the virus. A second deputy sheriff assigned to his detail also tested positive.

Green said on his daily Instagram video that he was relieved his family tested negative.

He said  he had the "sweats" and feeling a bit down. "This thing is no joke. It can make you feel quite ill," he said. 

Noting there were 6,859 active cases, down 128 from Monday, Green said that the state has turned the corner. "We're going to get through this. Soon we'll be done with the stay-at- home order," he said.

Amemiya gets endorsement of more City Council members

Honolulu mayoral candidate Keith Amemiya now has the backing of five City Council members.

Council Chair Ikaika Anderson and members Brandon Elefante, Tommy Waters and Joey Manahan yesterday endorsed Amemiya, a political newcomer.

They joined council member and former mayoral candidate Kym Pine, who supported Amemiya earlier this month.

Anderson says he's seen Amemiya and his opponent Rick Blangiardi in community forums and believes Blangiardi has a top down approach.

"I've been at Honolulu Hale for a long time, nearly 18 years. And I can tell you from experience that no one can come into Honolulu Hale, especially as an executive, and believe that they are going to whip bureaucrats into shape -- successfully whip them into shape, anyway. And get them to submit to your policy ideas of moving Honolulu moving forward.

"Tried that when I first came to Honolulu Hale. I promise you, does not work. In looking at Keith Amemiya, he's a community builder and a consensus builder. And I believe that he will be able to successfully massage folks into, not submitting, but to accepting his policy ideas rather than pounding them into submission."

Blangiardi said in a statement that he seeks to work with all council members to "ensure public confidence in trust and not politics." 

Anderson, Manahan and Pine are terming out at the end of the year.

This is a developing story. Please check back for upates. 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.