The Latest: 53 New Cases; Statewide Mask Mandate Issued; Mayor: Safe Travels Doesn't Keep Kauai Safe

Nov 17, 2020

Updated: 11/17/2020, 12:14 p.m.

The state Department of Health yesterday reported 53 new COVID-19 cases and no new deaths.

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

“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 Janice Okubo, health department spokeswoman by email.

Based on the latest numbers, Oahu saw 37 new cases, Hawaii County 6, Kauai 0, Maui 2 and Lanai and Molokai 0. Eight more out-of-state cases were reported. 

Oahu recorded 14,373 cases, Hawaii County 1,485, Maui 452, Lanai 106, Kauai 82 and Molokai 17. There have been 150 cases diagnosed out of state. 

Statewide mask mandate aims to unify different county policies

Gov. David Ige yesterday issued a new COVID-19 emergency proclamation, his 15th since the pandemic began. The governor’s office says this one extends and clarifies the statewide mask mandate “as agreed to by all four counties and the state.”

The proclamation says in part: “All persons in the state shall wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when in public.”

The proclamation also says “an owner or operator of any business or operation shall refuse admission or service to any individual who fails to wear a face covering, unless an exception applies.”

The governor’s office says “a face covering mandate has been in place in Hawaii since April 25th.”

Ige was urged to issue a unified mask mandate because each county had its own rules, causing confusion.

Health care leaders, including HMSA President Mark Mugiishi and Queen's Health Systems CEO Jill Hoggard Green, had called for a single mask policy as data models project a spike in COVID cases this fall and winter if the state didn't take action.

Under the order, a business must refuse admission or service to anyone who fails to wear a face covering, unless an exemption applies. Such exemptions include medical or health reasons, when eating or drinking, while outdoors if maintaining six-foot distances from others, and for children under 5.

Anyone convicted of violating the order will be guilty of a misdemeanor, with fines up to $5,000 and a year in jail.

The proclamation also calls for all hotel operators to adopt a COVID-19 health and safety plan for each of their properties. The plan must cover guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and describe the measures taken in response to COVID-19 as well as what guests and workers can expect "in terms of service, accommodations and safety protocols."

The hotel operators are responsible for accommodating guests on or off site who become COVID-positive or have been a close contact of someone who is positive for the virus. The plans have to be submitted to the Hawaii Tourism Authority and published on the operator's website.

Ige also extended the moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent until the Dec. 31. 

No larger Thanksgiving gatherings in sight as Oahu cases remain high

It will be really difficult – if not impossible – for Honolulu to advance to the third tier of reopening by Thanksgiving. That’s according to Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who gave an update on the city’s coronavirus status yesterday.

As of Monday when the latest cases were reported, Oahu’s seven-day average for new COVID cases was 76 – with a test positivity average of 2.9 percent.

The numbers are not low enough to further ease restrictions under the city’s reopening plan.

Caldwell says while the number of Oahu cases remains stable, the city could still return to harsher restrictions under Tier 1.

"I’m concerned as we go into Thanksgiving and Christmas. Gatherings – that’s why I say, 'Hunker down, don’t gather,’ that we could see the cases go up," he said.

 

"And all you need is two, seven-day averages at over 100, and we immediately snap back to Tier 1. So gyms close, dining is only with your family or household unit. We go back. I don’t want to go back. And I believe we can go forward, but it just requires discipline and acting against our own human nature of wanting to come together."

 

The city is offering free COVID-19 tests until the end of the month. Registration and more information can be found at doineedacovid19test.com.

--HPR's Casey Harlow

Kauai seeks more protections as travel-related COVID-19 cases rise

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.

Kauai yesterday recorded its ninth travel-related positive case, one involving a traveler who took a pre-travel test under the state Safe Travels program and received a positive result after arrival on the island.

Kauai has also had 12 cases in which a traveler had a negative pre-flight test but then was later found to be positive for the virus.

"A month into the state's Safe Travels program, it is clear that a single pre-travel test is not sufficient to protect us from the spread of COVID-19," the mayor said. "Our cases are increasing much faster than initial state projections."

The mayor is asking for rule chages that would require all incoming Safe Travel participants to quarantine for 72 hours. They would then take a post-travel test and be released from quarantine if they receive a negative result.

A second rule change would require all travelers to upload their negative test results to the Safe Travels program before they fly to Kauai. If the results are not available, they would be subject to the 14-day quarantine.

If the governor approves the proposed rules, they would go into effect within seven days of his signature.

Supreme Court justice nominee runs into opposition

Gov. David Ige's nominee to the Hawaii Supreme Court ran into some choppy waters during his confirmation hearing yesterday.

Circuit Court Judge Todd Eddins is Ige's choice to serve a 10-year term as associate justice on the state's high court.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard from the mother of a five-year-old who says Eddins approved a plea agreement for the defendant in her daughter's rape case that she opposed.

The defendant was later placed on probation.

Eddins said he was told the mother had agreed to the plea agreement.

He says judges typically accept agreements approved by the defense and prosecution

"Just to dispel any notion that somehow I'm pro child rapist, I think we're hard pressed to find anybody in ... the whole state that's pro child rapist. But what has to be happening with any judicial decision-making is the fairness, and looking at the law and the facts in any decision. 

"So, I've been overly harsh, I think, and I've reconsidered decisions. Sometimes perhaps people have thought I've been too lenient. And, you know, any criticisms that's lodged my way, hey, you know, I'll take it -- it's part of the job."

The Judiciary Committee has set a vote on the nomination for tomorrow. If Eddins is approved, his nomination goes to the full Senate.

If confirmed, Eddins would succeed Associate Justice Richard Pollack who retired this summer.

-- HPR's Sandee Oshiro