Updated: 11/6/2020, 3:10 p.m.
The state Department of Health reported no deaths and 122 new COVID-19 cases today, again retreating from what had been a general decline in the spread of the virus in the islands over several weeks.
The total infections now number 15,691 since the pandemic began.
Oahu had 87 new cases, Hawaii County 21, Maui 6, Lanai 1, Kauai 1 and Molokai none. There were 6 new cases diagnosed out of state. The death toll stands at 219.
There have been 13,596 cases on Oahu, 1,375 on Hawaii Island, 421 on Maui, 106 on Lanai, 69 on Kauai, and 17 on Molokai. There have been 107 cases diagnosed out of state. One case from Oahu and two from Hawaii Island were removed from the counts based on updated information.
In a COVID-related development, the state Department of Public Safety reported that testing of all Hawaii inmates at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz., was completed yesterday, with 399 positive results out of a total of 1,425 tests. Fifty tests are still pending and 348 inmates are active cases.
Five inmates are hospitalized. All who tested positive are in medical isolation at Saguaro, the department said.
It's not looking good for more easing of COVID limits on Oahu
Oahu could remain stuck under its current COVID-19 restrictions or retreat to previous limitations if cases don't drop dramatically in the next two weeks. The island saw 66 new cases today. That's better than the 125 cases reported the day before. But Mayor Kirk Caldwell says it's still not enough to lift more restrictions.
Caldwell made those remarks yesterday at a ceremony unveiling a new mobile testing lab at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.
The $4 million lab is part of a $16 million program, paid with federal CARES Act fund, to expand testing capacity on Oahu.
The laboratory, which opened on Nov. 1, is initially testing first responders and their families, airport workers and city workers. Plans call for later expanding the testing to include interisland travelers and others who need the tests.
For now, the lab is not available for trans-Pacific travelers seeking pre-flight testing to sidestep the mandatory quarantine with a negative result. But the lab is seeking state approval as a "trusted partner" under the Safe Travels program.
Caldwell said the new lab can process up to 10,000 tests a day and return results in 3 to 6 hours. The lab is using polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests, the so-called "gold standard" of COVID-19 tests that has a high level of accuracy.
The program is a partnership with the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii Consortium. Glen Hayashida, CEO of the foundation, said there will be a charge for the tests, allowing the operation to become self-sustaining after the CARES Act funds run out at the end of the year.
Hilton Raethel, president and CEO or Healthcare Association of Hawaii representing Hawaii hospitals, praised the standing up of the testing lab but said while testing is good, prevention is better.
"COVID-19 is not a fun disease to get. A lot of people just get it and they shrug off the symptoms and they think they're fine, but we're just learning to understand or beginning to understand some of the long-term repercussions of COVID-19," he said. "So, again, this is a great facility...but let's keep all of ourselves and our communities and our visitors safe and healthy during this holiday season."
To move to Tier 3 under the city's reopening strategy with fewer restrictions, Oahu must get its 7-day average daily case count down to between 20 and 49 cases and its positivity rate to between 1% to 2.49%.
Its 7-day average is now 71 cases and its positivity rate stands at 2.7%.
State ready to distribute any approved vaccine in January
There’s no approved COVID-19 vaccine yet, but the state health department anticipates it can administer one to residents as early as January if it’s available.
Lawmakers think there are a few hurdles that the state will first need to overcome.
"Health care providers in the community will be performing important health care services in the administration of the vaccine," said Rep. Della Au Belatti. "So it's an open question about what the federal government is going to be financing for the distribution and actual administration of those vaccines, what individuals may have to pay out of pocket."
Rep. Linda Ichiyama said there may be unforeseen issues. "We don't know what the challenges are yet because we haven't done it yet. And that's really, honestly, the biggest challenge in and of itself."
The effort of distributing and administering the vaccine will take considerable coordination. Rep. John Mizuno.
"You've got the state that needs to work with the counties. And you've also got to work with the health centers, the hospitals, the mobile units. You have to ensure proper storage. So coordination is the key," he said. "There's a lot of moving parts."
One of the vaccines in the running will need to be kept at a very cold temperature. Health officials are still looking for facilities where it could be stored, including in rural areas.
The vaccine will be given out in waves, with first responders receiving the initial doses.
The health department plans to have a full vaccination plan by early December.
--HPR's Ashley Mizuo