A female Oahu senior with multiple underlying conditions became Hawaii’s 19th COVID-19 fatality Friday as 29 new cases were reported by the state Department of Health.
Also on Friday, state authorities warned organizers to cancel a “floatilla” event that was being promoted on social media for today’s Fourth of July holiday.
Officials said they feared hundreds would show up to an unnamed East Oahu beach to create a large gathering in violation of the emergency rules and orders enacted by the state to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re imploring anyone who has expressed their intention to attend this event to step back and consider their personal responsibility to their friends, their family and most especially their kupuna,” Jason Redulla, chief of the state Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, said in a statement.
State officials Friday continued to urge the greater populous to maintain vigilance against the virus amid Independence Day weekend revelry. They said they hope to avoid the kind of infection spikes that plagued several states on the mainland following the Memorial Day holiday.
Friday’s COVID-19-related death was the second in one week following nearly two months without a virus- related fatality. It also comes amid a four-week uptick in cases in Hawaii, although the state continues to lead the nation with the lowest infection and death rates.
Gov. David Ige expressed his condolences to the woman’s family and friends.
“Every COVID-19 death is an emotional reminder of the need for all of us to be vigilant and wear a face covering when outside our homes, physically distance ourselves from others and wash hands frequently,” Ige said in a statement. “It’s about protecting each other and allowing the state to reopen safely. We all have a stake in this and now is the most critical time to wear a mask.”
The 29 new cases are the most in a single day since March 17 and tied with the second-highest number of cases. Hawaii’s record — 32 — was recorded March 16. Twenty-five of the 29 were diagnosed on Oahu, two on Maui and one on Hawaii island. One other case represents a Hawaii resident diagnosed out of state.
The new cases bring Hawaii’s cumulative total to 975.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said most of Friday’s cases were related to known clusters, but the Health Department noted at least five were linked to three new events.
On Oahu the cases were scattered around the island, including Honolulu, Kailua, Mililani, Pearl City, Wahiawa, Waialua, Waianae, Kaneohe, Waimanalo and Waipahu, officials said.
“As the state continues to reopen businesses and rebuild the economy, controlling the spread of COVID-19 will be the key to moving forward,” state Health Director Bruce Anderson said.
He urged people to wear a face covering whenever they are out and to avoid crowded places, enclosed spaces and close contact with anyone outside their household.
With several hundred people having “RSPV’d” online to the flotilla event, officials said, law enforcement officers will be on patrol to intercept any illegal activity. Violators face arrest and being charged with breaking emergency rules and orders that carry penalties of up to a $5,000 fine and one year in jail, officials said.
“It is wrong for anyone to be organizing a flotilla event at this time,” Redulla said. “We take this information seriously, and enforcement action will be taken if necessary.”
A Fourth of July flotilla off Waikiki in 2017 led to hundreds of rescues and at least 10 serious alcohol-related injuries as an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people participated in the event.
Meanwhile, the Bank of Hawaii Foundation released findings earlier this week from a new COVID-19 survey that found that 2 in 5 Hawaii households suffered job-related impacts during the pandemic’s first months.
“Hawaii ranked as one of the most expensive states prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Peter Ho, chairman, president and CEO of Bank of Hawaii, said in a statement. “The research findings illustrate just how much the pandemic has exacerbated hardships for residents. Many are adding to their existing credit card debt or selling personal items to make ends meet.”
Surveyed were 1,096 Hawaii residents from May 14 to 22. Other results showed:
>> 45% have seen their household income decline since the start of the pandemic.
>> 1 in 4 are delinquent paying at least some of their bills.
>> 27% are surviving on savings to augment any declines in income.
>> 1 in 5 have had issues with food security in the past three months.
>> 81% worry about contracting COVID-19.
>> 57% worry about passing the virus on to others.
>> 83% of households statewide received or expect to receive a federal economic impact payment.
The study conducted for Bank of Hawaii Foundation by Anthology Research involved a statewide online and telephone survey of full-time Hawaii residents with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.02% at the 95% level of confidence.
The full “COVID-19 in Hawaii” study can be viewed at boh.com/facts-figures.