Coronavirus infections in Hawaii topped 1,000 on Sunday, the fourth day in a row with more than 20 new cases.
State Health Department officials reported 25 new coronavirus cases Sunday as the number of infections since the start of the outbreak rose to 1,023 statewide.
All of the new cases Sunday were on Oahu. An employee at a City and County Summer Fun program in Waipahu and a state Senate staff member have tested positive for COVID-19 in separate incidents.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the recent rise in COVID-19 infections on Oahu had been expected. As long as cases stay within the parameters that Hawaii’s health care system can handle, Caldwell said that the county can continue to “thaw out and open up.”
Caldwell spoke at a news conference in Waikiki, where he extended the Kalakaua Avenue “Open Streets” Sunday program to the end of July.
The popular program, which began June 14, has closed Kalakaua Avenue from 6 a.m to noon between Seaside and Kapahulu avenues to give bicyclists, joggers and walkers an opportunity to enjoy outdoor exercise without the challenges of Waikiki traffic.
The city is still requiring social distancing and has ordered that face coverings must be worn to the extent possible. Participants in the Kalakaua Avenue “Open Streets” are supposed to keep on the move and avoid congregating to keep down the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Caldwell said the city’s Summer Fun program will be open today.
Senate President Ron Kouchi sent a memo to the Senate saying the Senate would convene as planned today despite news that a Senate staff member had tested positive Saturday for COVID-19.
“The (Department of Health) has informed me that the risk of infection to other employees is low as all social distancing requirements were followed,” Kouchi said in the memo.
Sunday’s statewide coronavirus cases total included 744 on Oahu, 128 in Maui County, 93 on Hawaii island and 40 in Kauai County, according to health officials. The total also included 18 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state.
Of the state’s 19 coronavirus deaths, 13 have been on Oahu and six on Maui.
As of Sunday, 227 infections in Hawaii are active cases, with 777 patients now classified by health officials as “released from isolation.” Twenty-one new release cases were reported Sunday. The category counts those infected people who have met the criteria for being released from isolation.
About 76% of the Hawaii people who have been infected are now classified as released from isolation.
Of all the confirmed Hawaii cases since the start of the outbreak, 118 have required hospitalization, with no new hospitalizations reported Sunday, health officials said.
Caldwell said the case involving the city’s Summer Fun worker is a reminder of the importance of keeping vigilant, especially as visitor counts rise.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported Saturday that 687 visitors were among the 2,099 passengers who came to Hawaii on 26 flights Saturday.
On Friday the visitor count fell to 736 — even so, that was the second-highest count since the tourism lockdown began. The 14-week high was on Thursday, when 937 passengers came to Hawaii.
It’s not known how many visitors will fly into Hawaii daily following the Aug. 1 launch of a pre-arrival testing program. The program allows out-of-state passengers with negative COVID-19 tests taken within 72 hours of coming to Hawaii to bypass a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. However, challenging logistics are anticipated to keep tourist counts far below last year’s level.
In July 2019 approximately 35,000 out-of-state passengers arrived in Hawaii daily, and visitor arrivals hit 997,872.
Fear of a second wave of COVID-19 infections has some decision-makers advocating to push back the Aug. 1 reopening or at least tighten the rules. On the flip side, others say a short testing window and lack of details are hampering tourism’s recovery.
In the meantime, most of Hawaii’s COVID-19 concerns remain community-related.
“We are seeing community spread now — some travel, but mainly community spread. We’ve got to be really careful. If we don’t manage it right, it could jeopardize the opening up to visitors come Aug. 1,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell pointed to the Summer Fun case as an example of good COVID-19 management.
“The good news is that this Park and Rec person was very, very diligent about how she took care of herself,” Caldwell said. “She wore face coverings at work, and on a number of days she wore a face shield along with a face covering. She also wore latex gloves to protect herself and kept a log of everyone that she came into contact with.”
The Summer Fun worker was asymptomatic but took the test after her husband tested positive for COVID-19, he said.
Caldwell said the woman took the test Friday and was found to be positive Saturday. The woman is now recovering at home, where she is self-isolating.
Contact tracers are following up with those whom the woman may have come into contact with on the job; however, Caldwell said there is believed to be little risk to the 48 children in the program or her fellow employees. Exposure, if any, would have been limited to Wednesday and Thursday, as the program recessed Friday in observance of the Fourth of July holiday.
Caldwell said that all park staff, keiki and family members who want a COVID-19 test will be offered a free one at a city Community Health Center, if their health insurance does not cover the test’s cost.
“There are so many people carrying this virus that have no symptoms. That’s why it’s so important that we practice all these protocols that we put in place,” Caldwell said. “We are grateful to the parks staff worker for all that she did to protect herself and others. But her husband got the virus and it spread to her, and that’s how we came to know about it.”