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Hawaii News

Garden Isle gets half of 14 cases in the state

BRUCE ASATO / JAN. 15
                                Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said the seven people who tested positive for COVID-19 are related to a person who tested positive on Thursday, which became Kauai’s first positive case for the virus in 10 weeks.
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BRUCE ASATO / JAN. 15

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said the seven people who tested positive for COVID-19 are related to a person who tested positive on Thursday, which became Kauai’s first positive case for the virus in 10 weeks.

Seven new cases of the coronavirus were reported on Kauai on Saturday, the most cases ever reported on the Garden Island in a single day.

The new outbreak made up half of the state’s 14 new cases for the day, which included six on Oahu and one on Maui. Kauai now has eight active cases. Statewide the number of cases stands at 803, while 17 have died from the disease in Hawaii.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said the seven people who tested positive are related to a person who tested positive on Thursday, which became Kauai’s first positive case for the virus in 10 weeks.

He said the state was investigating the close contacts of the first person who tested positive and tested members of his household on Friday. As a result of the testing, officials found Friday night that seven more people from the household also had contracted the virus.

“The Department of Health is continuing its contact tracing efforts and those identified as close contacts will be notified by the Department of Health and offered testing,” he said Saturday in his almost daily COVID-19 update on Facebook.

Kauai District Health Officer Janet Berreman said in the video update that none of the infected has been hospitalized and all have mild or no symptoms. Those who tested positive included three children.

“COVID-19 spreads very easily,” she said in the Facebook update. “We knew it would return to our island, so this is not a surprise, although we are sorry to see it return in such numbers.”

She said Kauai has made good use of the time it went without any cases by increasing testing capacity, training more than 50 contact tracers, setting up isolation and quarantine facilities, and increasing intensive care unit and ventilator capacity.

The increase in cases on Kauai comes less than a week after the state lifted its two-week interisland quarantine for travelers. State officials said the end of the interisland quarantine on Tuesday was a way to cautiously reopen the economy and allow family and friends on neighboring islands to reunite.

“As we move forward with more activities and in particular with more travel, we will no doubt see more cases, so we will put our new skills and new capacities to good use,” Berreman said. “We will continue to keep our community as safe as we can while also going back to work and to economic activity.”

She said the male who initially tested positive was found to be infected after he sought medical care on Wednesday.

She said he had not traveled recently and the Department of Health has not been able to find the source of his infection. She said the department is continuing to investigate.

She said the seven people who tested positive Friday were in isolation beginning Saturday.

“All of these cases resulted from in-home transmission,” she said, adding that close contacts of the infected people are also in quarantine and being offered COVID-19 testing.

She said the department has ordered materials to boost the island’s testing capacity.

“I’m confident we can handle this outbreak as we have been handling cases so far,” she said.

Kawakami urged residents to help reduce the spread of the virus by staying home as much as possible, refraining from social gatherings, maintaining 6 feet of physical distance from people outside the household, cleaning surfaces often, and wearing a mask.

“Remember, my mask protects you and your mask protects me,” he said. “It’s a sign of respect and aloha.”

Health Director Bruce Anderson said Saturday one of the cases on Oahu was associated with a previously confirmed case in which both people had attended a “house party.”

Since the beginning of this month, the number of new cases in Hawaii has already tripled the number of cases reported in May. State officials said the recent increase in COVID-19 cases is likely due to residents relaxing safe practices, such as physical distancing, wearing of face masks and frequent hand washing.

Meanwhile, more than 1,500 air passengers arrived in Hawaii on Friday, a small amount compared to the 35,000 who were arriving daily in Hawaii at this time last year. Of those, 475 were visitors despite the state’s mandatory two-week quarantine for trans-Pacific passengers.

Gov. David Ige issued the quarantine on March 26 to lock down tourism in Hawaii and reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The quarantine, which is set to expire July 31, has effectively wiped out tourism at a great cost to the local economy, which has seen unemployment claims rise above 230,000 since March 1.

The state reported Thursday that the seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose to an all-time high of 23.8% in April before dipping slightly last month to 22.6%.

Of the 433 visitors who traveled to Oahu on Friday, 83% answered on a mandatory state travel declaration form that the purpose of their trip was to visit friends and family. Just 5% said they were traveling for business and 7% said they were coming to the islands for vacation. The remaining visitors stated multiple reasons for their visit, and 11 didn’t answer the question.

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