Oahu continued to report among the state’s highest numbers of daily coronavirus infections Sunday, as Hurricane Douglas tracked dangerously close to the islands and hundreds of evacuees fled to shelters.
The Department of Health recorded 64 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide number of infections since the start of the outbreak to 1,683. On Saturday there were 73 new cases — the third consecutive day of record cases in the islands.
Health officials say the state could see an even greater increase in COVID- 19 with “more people gathering and in congregate situations” as they take shelter from the storm.
“It’s fair to say that we could expect there to be an increase,” DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Gov. David Ige temporarily lifted the state’s mandatory 14-day travel quarantine to allow tourists to prepare for the hurricane, while Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued an emergency proclamation allowing gatherings of 50 or more people indoors as the city opens shelters for potential evacuees.
“It does present challenges, but the shelters are going to be set up to use physical distancing,” said Okubo, adding that the department confirmed shelter-at-home plans with about 745 people currently in quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 exposure or illness. “We’re continually concerned about people not complying with wearing masks and physical distancing. Of course, there are challenges with people congregating in homes because of the hurricane, but we want people to be safe and we just urge people to, as much as they possibly can, practice those prevention measures.”
The DOH said those staying with extended family or friends should wear masks in the home, wash hands often, clean surfaces and avoid close face-to-face contact.
There’s a possibility the daily count will be lower today and Tuesday because the state Laboratories Division didn’t conduct COVID-19 testing Sunday due to the storm.
The new cases included 55 on Oahu, seven in Maui County and two on Kauai, both travel-related cases involving a resident and visitor. One case from Honolulu was removed from the count as a result of updated information.
The coronavirus case total includes 1,345 on Oahu, 153 in Maui County, 117 on Hawaii island and 45 in Kauai County. The total also includes 23 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside the state. Hawaii’s coronavirus-related death toll remains at 26 — 19 on Oahu, six on Maui and one Kauai resident who died outside Hawaii.
The disease is spreading throughout the community, particularly in Honolulu, as more people gather at parties, religious functions, work meetings, funerals and sporting events while not wearing masks or social-distancing, the DOH previously said.
More cases are also appearing among younger to middle-age adults socializing at bars and other events. State officials are considering reinstituting restrictions and evaluating whether to move forward with reopening public schools Aug. 4.
There are 478 active infections in Hawaii and 1,179 patients now considered recovered, or more than 70% of those infected. Of all the confirmed cases since the start of the local outbreak, 163 have required hospitalization, including two Hawaii residents who were treated out of state. About 1.4% of the 114,052 coronavirus tests conducted so far by state and clinical laboratories have been positive.