UPDATE 2:50 P.M.:
Hawaii health officials warned that higher levels of COVID-19 circulating in the community could jeopardize the reopening of schools on Aug. 4.
“The fact that the percentage persists or potentially increases is a red flag that our community still isn’t getting it together,” said State Epidemiologist Sarah Park at a COVID-19 briefing at the state Department of Health. “We’re backsliding now and we can’t afford to keep backsliding because if we do we jeopardize reopening further — we jeopardize bringing travelers back, we jeopardize potentially at some point reopening schools.”
The DOH acknowledged that it still doesn’t have specific trigger points that would determine the opening and closing of schools. Hawaii schools abruptly closed in March when there were much fewer COVID-19 infections.
Health director Bruce Anderson said he met yesterday with a taskforce to determine the trigger points for schools and is planning to have additional meetings, but that has been stymied by Hurricane Douglas. He did not disclose who is on the taskforce.
The DOH is also reassessing the metrics used to determine risk in the community, including using the percentage of tests that are positive instead of just the number of cases, he said.
Community spread of the disease is one of the major factors officials will be considering, in addition to school readiness and the ability for the Health Department to respond quickly in case investigations, contact tracing as well as testing and health capacity and timeliness of test results, Anderson said.
Hawaii Department of Health officials today announced a new coronavirus-related death along with the highest single-day count of new COVID-19 cases — 55 — since the beginning of the pandemic. The previous record was 42 new cases reported on July 11.
Officials today said an elderly Oahu woman became the state’s 26th death, according to the state Department of Health’s daily COVID-19 tally. Officials said they received news of her death late Wednesday.
Today’s new cases included 50 on Oahu, three on Hawaii island and two on Maui, bringing the statewide total number of infections since the start of the outbreak to 1,490.
The 55 new cases represent 2.2 percent of the 2,478 new test results counted in today’s Health Department tally.
In a news release this morning, state Health Director Bruce Anderson extended condolences to the family and friends of the woman who died, and said the spike in new cases underscores the importance of continuing to take precautions to avoid spreading the virus.
“These cases represent people from all walks of life and varied professions, indicating the apparent challenges of maintaining safe practices is widespread across the state,” he said.
As of today, 339 infections in Hawaii are active cases, with a total of 1,125 patients now classified by health officials as “released from isolation,” or more than 75% of those infected. Twelve new release cases were reported today. The category counts those infected people who have met the criteria for being released from isolation.
Today’s statewide coronavirus case total includes 1,167 on Oahu, 141 in Maui County, 117 on Hawaii island, and 43 in Kauai County, according to health officials. The total also includes 22 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state.
Of all the confirmed Hawaii cases since the start of the outbreak, 155 have required hospitalizations, with one new hospitalization on Oahu reported today, health officials said.
Two hospitalizations in the statewide count are Hawaii residents who were diagnosed and treated outside the state. Of the 153 hospitalizations within the state, 122 have been on Oahu, 26 on Maui, four on Hawaii island, and one on Kauai.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said today there were 39 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized in Hawaii with five patients in ICU and three patients on ventilators.
By county, Honolulu has seen 852 patients released from isolation, and Maui has had 124 patients released. Hawaii island has seven active infections, while Kauai County none.
State Epidemiologist Sarah Park urged the public to practice social distancing, wear face masks in public, wash their hands frequently and stay home when sick.
“Most cases are occurring as a result of people socializing and getting together either with work colleagues, extended family, or friends in multiple type of settings—without wearing face coverings or distancing,” Park said in the news release. “I continue to hope all in our community will maintain safe practices, but unfortunately the persistence of new cases would argue against that.”
Health officials said they are continuing to “track and investigate numerous clusters.”
“Unfortunately, if we can’t get these numbers headed in the right direction, we may be facing the re-implementation of restrictions. No one wants that to happen and this is why it is so critical that everyone does their part, every day, everyplace in practicing safety for the sake of the health of all in Hawaii,” Anderson said.
Of the 111,291 coronavirus tests conducted so far by state and clinical laboratories in Hawaii, just 1.3% have been positive.