Updated: 11/11/2020, 3:22 p.m.
The new COVID-19 case count returned to triple digits today, with 118 cases reported statewide, again jeoparizing further easing of restrictions, particularly on Oahu. There were no additional deaths, with the state toll standing at 222.
With today's counts, the state Department of Health reported statewide cases reached 16,205 since the pandemic began.
Oahu had 85 new cases, Hawaii County 23, Maui 6, Kauai 3, and Lanai and Molokai 0.
Kauai County said yesterday that the three new cases are all related to travelers who participated in the state Safe Travels pre-testing program.
One is an adult male from Oahu who took the pre-travel test but did not receive the positive result until arriving on Kauai. He is in isolation and close contacts were directed to quarantine. That case was to appear in the Oahu count.
Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami's office said in a news release that if the one-week average case count increases from the current one to two cases, the county will impose more restrictions.
District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman told HPR last week that about a dozen of Kauai cases since the pre-testing program launched on Oct. 15 have been travel-related.
On the Big Island, Hilo Medical Center said in a release that a large increase in positive cases in recent weeks have not been travel-related but rather the result of community transmission.
Health department data show that a majority of those affected are between 1 and 40 years of age and are based in West Hawaii. Because of this, testing in the Kona area will be scheduled.
Meanwhile, the latest numbers from the Safe Travels surveillance testing that randomly screens those who took the pre-travel test show few are testing positive after arrival.
As of Monday, there have been 18 confirmed positives out of 15,158 tests. That amounts to a positivity rate of 0.139% since the surveillance program launched, the state said.
Teachers who travel are also being asked to participate in the surveillance testing.
Caldwell seeks special session for mask mandate
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is asking the state Legislature to hold a special session to address a statewide mask mandate and revise penalties to enforce it.
At a press conference yesterday, Caldwell echoed lawmakers and top health officials who are calling for one mask policy across the counties as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
On Monday, House Speaker Scott Saiki told HPR that Gov. David Ige should issue the mask mandate by executive order rather than have the Legislature hold a special session.
But Caldwell believes legislators need to convene sooner than later and change the penalties to enforce mask wearing.
"If a police officer sees you not wearing your mask, when you should, there’s two choices: one, to warn you. And if you say, ‘Forget it, I’m not putting on my mask,’ to cite you," he said.
"And the only provision they have when they cite you is under HRS 127A, which means it’s a criminal offense. You’re entitled to a jury trial, you can spend one year in jail and pay a fine of up to $5,000."
Caldwell said if there was a mandated mask mandate statewide, police will have to enforce it. Currently, they have little choice but to cite someone under the statute.
"So if the Legislature came back in, and amended the statute to allow not such a draconian fine, make it like a traffic infraction, $100 fine if you’re not wearing your mask -- doesn’t mean you got to go to court. You just got to pay it like a parking ticket."
Caldwell says revising the statute will not only help police officers but also the state judicial system.
The courts are dealing with thousands of citations handed out for violations of the COVID safety measures.
--HPR's Casey Harlow
Lanai stay-at-home order eases to 'safer at home' restrictions
Restrictions on Lanai, which had been under a stay-at-home order because of an outbreak of COVID-19, are being lifted somewhat starting Thursday.
Under the "safer at home" limits, residents and visitors can leave their homes or lodging for essential activities like grocery shopping and can patronize essential or designated businesses.
"We have seen fewer cases on Lanai and believe the outbreak has been contained," said Mayor Michael Victorino. But he urged people to remain at home or in their lodging as much as possible.
Travelers to the island still need to quarantine for two weeks unless they took a pre-travel test and received a negative result.
As of yesterday, Lanai had reported 106 cases. Health officials traced the outbreak to large social gatherings that spread through households.
Rep. Lynn DeCoite, Sen. J. Kalani English and Mayor Michael Victorino are sponsoring a virtual town hall meeting today at 6:30 p.m. Those who wish to participate can register to get the Zoom link.
--HPR News Staff
--HPR News Staff
Restaurants adapting months into COVID-19
Hawaii restaurants are learning to adapt to the new norm of takeout and curbside delivery, this as the pandemic crawls into its ninth month.
The University of Hawaii Shidler College of Business alumni association held a webinar yesterday with several famous names in the industry. They had some advice for aspiring chefs watching restaurants close and jobs disappear.
"I think there's a major restructuring that's going to happen to the restaurant industry and the entire country and especially here in this state, and it has to do with the way leases are signed, and the way they're guaranteed and the whole structure," said Hawaii chef and restauranteur Peter Merriman.
"I won't get into all those sort of details right now. But what it indicates is there's going to be a lot of opportunities out there that are a year or two years away, or maybe they're three years away."
He said for those in culinary school, it will take two or three years before they can open their own chain.
"But there's gonna be a lot of opportunity out there. So stay awake, keep your eyes open."
Merriman also cautioned against over-encouraging people who want to get into farming. He says farming is very hard and should be left to those who are tough and smart.
Disclosure: Peter Merriman is an underwriter of HPR and a member of the station's community advisory board.
--HPR's Sandee Oshiro
Deadline approaching for free PPE under state program
Sunday is the deadline for medical providers, child care providers, public schools, small businesses and other qualified entities to apply for no-cost personal protective equipment from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
The program was created by the state Legislature to help critical businesses and facilities continue to operate during the pandemic.
The program is available through the end of the year.
More information is available at hawaii-medical-alliance.myshopify.com.