Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Wednesday, July 24, 2024 84° Today's Paper


Hawaii News

Hawaii officials say some precautions likely to remain even after coronavirus wanes

GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                While exercising in the ocean is still permitted, hiking, boating and fishing in groups of two or more is forbidden with some exceptions. Above, a lone surfer made his way to the water Monday in Waikiki.
1/1
Swipe or click to see more

GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM

While exercising in the ocean is still permitted, hiking, boating and fishing in groups of two or more is forbidden with some exceptions. Above, a lone surfer made his way to the water Monday in Waikiki.

As state officials contemplate how to safely reopen Hawaii, they cautioned the future for island residents will be anything but a return to normal.

The state will continue mitigation measures for the long term to prevent the spread of the virus that will still be circulating when the economy reopens, Health Director Bruce Anderson said at a COVID-19 briefing Friday.

“Large group gatherings and so forth are certainly gonna (have to wait). Large stadium events and other types of activities are probably gonna be something of the past, unless a vaccine or something else comes up,” Anderson said, adding that closing ports and instituting quarantines for arriving passengers at Hawaii airports have been efficient in keeping the disease at bay.

“We have that extraordinary protection now. That’s not likely to be continuing forever. When we open for travel back and forth to Hawaii, the disease can be introduced again and we need to be ready to respond quickly to cases that occur, and hopefully we can keep the disease under control.”

Gov. David Ige issued a fifth statewide emergency proclamation Friday directing employees of essential businesses and customers to follow stricter social-distancing rules, including the use of face masks and hand sanitizers and maintaining a 6-foot distance at all times. He also closed all Hawaii beaches and imposed new social-distancing requirements for boating and fishing, gathering in state waters and on land, and hiking in state parks.

While exercising in the ocean is still permitted, hiking, boating and fishing in groups of two or more is forbidden, except for members of the same family or others living at the same address. The proclamation also prevents any evictions for residential tenants who fail to pay rent.

The state is monitoring daily case counts to determine if there is truly a downward trend in the number of coronavirus patients. Since a peak in cases at 34 on April 3, the numbers have been dropping, though not for 14 days straight — an indicator the virus is not a growing threat in the community.

Some of the data is lagging because of a period when the Department of Health State Laboratories Division was doing limited testing and later when private labs had to send samples to the mainland, which delayed results, Ige said.

“We don’t believe we have 14 days of a sustained reduction in the number of positive cases,” Ige said, adding that he is working with county mayors on when to ease restrictions, including stay-at-home orders, which will likely be done in phases. “The decision to reopen the state will be made locally. The mayors and I have had conversations about what that would be.”

Most interisland and out-of-state travelers must self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival through April 30. The state and counties also imposed statewide restrictions on residents in an attempt to slow the spread of the disease and earlier asked tourists to stay away.

Hawaii’s tally of coronavirus cases rose by 12 to 553 Friday, with the state’s COVID-19 death toll unchanged at nine. A total of 390 patients have recovered since the start of the outbreak — or more than 70% of those known to have been infected. More than 22,000 tests — among the highest in the nation — have been conducted.

Still, health officials are investigating half a dozen COVID-19 clusters throughout the islands. The investigations include three medical workers at Wahiawa General Hospital Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, three positive employees at Wahiawa Health, 42 cases at Maui Memorial Medical Center (27 staff and 15 patients) and a related case at Hale Makua Health Services on Maui, and 14 cases connected to two McDonald’s locations in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii island. And at least seven infected crew members were found on the Pride of America cruise ship docked in Honolulu.

What’s more, the Department of Health’s surveillance program, which randomly sampled 925 specimens that were negative for the flu, found 17 positive cases of COVID-19 on Oahu and Maui, Anderson said.

But with just a dozen new cases on Friday, the start of the fourth weekend of the Ige’s stay-at-home order, the governor said he is “hopeful this is further evidence of a positive trend.”

While the state is on course to “flatten the curve,” it will be long before restrictions are lifted.

“We have some special circumstances here that have resulted in great success in keeping the curve down,” Anderson said. “At the same time, we’re very vulnerable to having the disease introduced. We’re gonna have to keep that social distancing in place for many activities. Schools are probably gonna be operating very differently than they have in the past. Almost all of our lives will have changed forever because of what we’ve gone through over the last few months here.”

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines. Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.