Updated: 9/10/2020, 12:05 p.m.
Hawaii recorded three more COVID-19 deaths today and 169 cases of new infections. The latest daily counts bring the state death toll to 94 and the total number of cases to 10,292.
There have now been 9,304 cases on Oahu, 541 on Hawaii Island, 363 for Maui County, and 58 on Kauai. Twenty-six residents were diagnosed out of state.
Yesterday also saw three deaths. All were Oahu men who had underlying medical conditions. Two were 60 to 69 years old and the third was 70 to 79.
The state health department says it is waiting on medical records to confirm six additional deaths associated with COVID-19 at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo.
But as of yesterday, the facility was reporting 10 deaths, according to Avalon Health Care that operates the nursing home. It said in an update on its website that 63 residents and 22 employees had tested positive for COVID-19.
Three residents are hospitalized at Hilo Medical Center and 36 are being cared for in the nursing home's COVID-designated area.
Over the weekend, Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz called for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to step into the crisis at the veterans home to bring the COVID cases under control.
He said the nursing home is understaffed and ill-equipped to deal with the crisis, a description that a veterans home spokeswoman disagreed with.
Schatz also chastized the state and county for failing to act urgently to address what he described as a public emergency.
Avalon Health Care now says it believes the virus came into the facility in two ways: one through a worker who was asymptomatic and was exposed in the community. The second was possibly through a resident who was exposed at an outside dialysis appointment.
The surge in COVID cases has been stressing the capacity of hospitals statewide. A lack of sufficient numbers of health care personnel, especially nurses, remains a major concern.
Surge testing continues at various Oahu locations this week. Participants can walk-up or register at doineedacovid19test.com. See the website for details on where and when the testing sites are scheduled.
New COVID-19 initiative seeks to explain what state hasn't
A group of Hawaii public, private and non-profit organizations are taking communications about COVID-19 into their own hands.
The new COVID Pau initiative that launched today aims to help residents better understand available information about the virus.
The initiative was developed in a matter of weeks -- this after the state House COVID-19 committee identified communications as a weak point in the Ige administration’s virus response.
It created its own media campaign with organizations like the Hawaii Medical Service Association, Hawaii Data Collaborative and Bank of Hawaii.
"We believe that when we transform data into information, using subject matter experts and making that information to a broad set of people across the community, we empower the community at large to make informed choices about how they can control the spread of the covid 19 virus for themselves, their families and their neighbors," said Ray Vara, Hawaii Pacific Health president and CEO, one of the initiative’s leaders.
"And in some cases where the data doesn't exist or is insufficient, we should be honest about that, too...We need accountability from our leaders and we need transparency in order to spur action."
University of Hawaii economist Carl Bonham says one COVID Pau data tracker provides a unique and useful snapshot of the state’s economic picture.
"What we're doing is we're trying to track the economy in almost real time as quickly as possible with a new weekly economic pulse index that is derived from about 20 individual indicators of mobility and job postings and hours at work and even Google searches for COVID," he said.
"So it's a high frequency snapshot of the current state of the economy, and over the last three to four weeks of that index, it's been turning down."
One COVID Pau’s main goals is to use the data released by the state health department and present it in a more digestible way.
"Our experience to date has been that information flow has come out somewhat sporadically, and in a very measured way," said Peter Ho, Bank of Hawaii CEO.
"And I think really, what we're trying to do is to use the data to create information and knowledge to describe, create a story to help promote appropriate action. So I think that's really the difference between the approach of COVID Pau and its data strategy, versus kind of what we've seen to date so far."
House Speaker Scott Saiki, another leader of the initiative, says the health department’s information is still lacking -- even after it unveiled a new data dashboard last week.
Saiki says the department still needs to disclose the location of COVID cases and the type of activity where people became infected.
Aside from a website, social media and email newsletters, the initiative will be conducting boots on the ground outreach in the community -- like providing people with personal protective equipment.
More information on the initiative can be found on the COVID Pau website.
--HPR's Ashley Mizuo
Stay-at-home extension in effect; beach, park, trail activity by one's self allowed
Oahu's stay-at-home, work-from home order extension begins today and runs for at least another two weeks. But beaches, parks, and trails have reopened, although for individual activity only.
That means no family activity and no group activities.
Community gardens have reopened for designated gardeners.
Park parking lots, bike paths and the Koko Head Tramway are open again on their regular schedules.
Not open yet are the People's Open Markets -- an announcement on a reopening date will be made later, the city said.
Also not open yet are city basketball, tennis, pickleball and volleyball courts. Still closed are pools, playgrounds, exercise equipment, off-leash dog parks, skate parks, archery ranges and the Koko Head Shooting Complex.
Indoor park facilities like gymnasiums and recreation rooms also remain closed.
The stay-at-home order runs through Sept. 23.
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 email@example.com.