The Latest: 53 New Cases Statewide, 3 On Molokaʻi; New Mayors Weigh-In On Travel Rules

Dec 8, 2020

Updated 12/8/20, 12:23 p.m.

The state Department of Health reported 53 new cases and no new fatalities Tuesday.

According to the state numbers, Oʻahu had 39 new cases, Maui 6, Molokaʻi 3, Hawaiʻi County 5, and Kauaʻi and Lanai had none. 

The latest state counts bring the Oʻahu total to 15,879, Hawaiʻi County, 1,652, Maui 618, Kauaʻi 120, Lanai 106 and Molokaʻi 22. The number of out-of-state cases totals 264. 

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 18,661 cases. The death toll stands at 262.

Incoming Mayors Weigh-In on Travel Rules

Former Prosecutor Mitch Roth was inaugurated as the mayor of Hawaiʻi County today.

Roth spent part of his inauguration day talking with the State House of Representatives’ COVID-19 Committee, expressing support for the travel testing program and saying that he is not on favor of adding additional quarantine requirements.

“I know first-hand the safe travels program is working,” Roth said.

“My son was supposed to be here a couple of days ago, but he tested positive. He probably would not have tested, if not for having the safe travels program.”

Roth also added that there are currently no COVID-related hospitalizations in Hilo.

Outgoing Hawaiʻi Island Mayor Harry Kim announced last week that all inbound passengers to the Hilo and Kona would be required to take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, if they are seeking to be exempt from a two week quarantine.

On Oʻahu, Honolulu Mayor-Elect Rick Blangiardi signaled that he would continue efforts of the out-going Caldwell Administration to safely reopen the island’s economy.

“Good public health and stable economy are not mutually exclusive,” Blangiardi said in his remarks.

“I’m all for those things that are going to move us forward; accepting the disease, learning to live with the disease, knowing we can’t really wait it out. Let’s be prudent, lets take the actions, lets act responsibly.”

He did not specify what that meant in terms of policy. During the campaign the former television news executive advocated an approach that would help businesses resume operations.

Blangiardi will be inaugurated as City and County mayor in January.

— HPR’s Ryan Finnerty

Residents, Lawmakers Should 'Temper' Vaccine Expectations

If federal regulators approve the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine this week, the first batch is expected to arrive in Hawai'i in the third week of December.

Dr. Curtis Toma is Director of Med Quest, Hawai'i's Medic-aid managed care program. He says the two-shot Pfizer vaccine is expected to arrive first, with the Moderna vaccine arriving around the fourth week of December, assuming it’s approved next week.

Toma says he wants to temper expectations for a vaccine that will be extremely limited.

"Even though you'll see a lot in the news the next couple weeks of the first shipment arriving, it's very small quantities and will be extended over months' time," Toma said.

Toma points to Hawaiʻi's population is 0.4% of the overall U.S. population. He says that if the vaccine is divided linearly, that will impact how many doses the state will get from the initial ten million doses produced.

"We don't know if more will go to high outbreak areas. Hawai'i is kind of a low outbreak area," he said. "So that's to temper some of the expectations. For example, if they give out ten million doses in December, 0.4% of that is 40 thousand doses, for Hawai'i Island it's a two-shot series, so it will be 20,000 patients in Hawaiʻi, out of the total 1.4 million."

CDC guidelines on vaccine distribution propose starting with healthcare workers and those at healthcare facilities.

According to current projections, young, healthy Ameri-cans should be able to access a vaccine by May or June of 2021.

— HPR's Noe Tanigawa

New Hawaiʻi County Councilmembers and Mayor Inaugurated

Former Big Island prosecutor Mitch Roth officially became Mayor of Hawaiʻi County yesterday in an inauguration ceremony held virtually because of the pandemic.

During the event, a masked Roth said his priority is helping families recover from COVID-19 “whether that means providing aid, enforcing regulation or simply getting out of the way.” Roth was sworn-in alongside nine members of the Hawaiʻi County Council led by Kaʻū Councilwoman and Chair Maile David.

"Each decisionmaker before you has a kuleana or responsibility to do the very best we possibly can to address the safety and health of our people," David said.

"I believe in addition to addressing challenges of COVID, climate change, impacts to our economy, and protecting our cultural and natural resources are the most critical issues to be addressed."

David became the first Native Hawaiian woman to hold the top seat at the Hawaiʻi County Council.

Also sworn in yesterday was 34-year-old Kelden Waltjen, the youngest county prosecutor to ever serve on the Big Island.

— HPR's Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi

City's Haʻikū Stairs Management Plan Moves Forward

A measure allowing the city to move ahead with a management plan for Haʻikū Stairs is taking another step forward at Honolulu Hale.

The Council’s economic assistance and revitalization committee yesterday discussed an approach involving a 12-year agreement with a vendor. Under the plan, the winning bidder will not only operate tours at the stairs – but also help with development and maintenance costs.

While there is support for the management plan – there is also opposition and concerns by residents.But enterprise services director Guy Kaulukukui says the vendor is expected to adhere to certain conditions.

"The vendors are going to be expected to shuttle their visitors from an off-site location by vehicle through the community – to a collecting point on private property in Haʻikū Valley," Kaulukukui said.

"Hikers are precluded from accessing the area on their own. All reservations must be done in advance. Therefore, everybody entering the valley for the hike, legally, will be doing so with a vendor, in vendor vehicles, with vendor guides."

The committee passed the measure for further discussion at the full Council – which is set to meet tomorrow.

– HPR's Casey Harlow