The recent surge in coronavirus cases in Hawaii has prompted officials to consider reinstating the 14-day interisland travel quarantine, prohibiting gym classes, closing bars and restricting gatherings to 10 people on Oahu.
County mayors and Gov. David Ige are discussing what can be done to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19, particularly on Oahu.
“The governor continues to meet regularly with all four mayors to assess current conditions and look ahead to policy decisions that might need to be made in the future to help control the spread of COVID-19. Their focus remains on the health and safety of all in Hawaii,” Ige spokeswoman Cindy McMillan told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The possibility of reversing recent moves to open the economy comes after the state saw 64 new COVID-19 infections Sunday, 73 on Saturday, 60 on Friday and 55 on Thursday. Before Thursday the record high for new cases was 42 on July 11. On Monday the number dropped to 28 but only because state laboratories were closed Sunday due to the threat of Hurricane Douglas.
The recent increase prompted Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino to urge the governor to reinstate the 14-day mandatory quarantine for interisland travel, which ended June 16.
Most of the new cases are on Oahu, where Mayor Kirk Caldwell is considering steps to slow the rise in infections.
“Now we may have to take more strong action of rolling back and perhaps shutting down bars again,” Caldwell said. He might also call for limiting or banning group exercise classes in gyms and limiting indoor and outdoor gatherings to no more than 10 people.
Also Monday, state health authorities said they were searching for people who may have been exposed to the new coronavirus between July 16 and 26 at two Honolulu bars: Brix & Bones at 1217 Hopaka St. and Arena 808 at 1020 Keeaumoku St. So far, the DOH has found five cases of COVID-19 associated with these establishments, and as many as seven other positive cases are potentially linked with these clusters.
“Given the conditions associated with this cluster, we’re concerned there may be more persons exposed than are or can be identified through our investigations. In the interest of public health we’re asking anyone who was in either of these bars during the 10-day period to consult their health-care provider to consider being tested for COVID-19,” state Epidemiologist Sarah Park said in a news release, adding that county rules weren’t being followed, including the “inconsistent wearing of masks” and physical distancing.
Caldwell said, “We started refocusing all our energies to what else we need to do to try to stem the increase of COVID-19 on Oahu.”
The city previously mandated masks while working out in gyms and restricted alcohol sales in bars to midnight, while allowing liquor inspectors to shut down bars violating safety guidelines. But those measures may not be enough as people continue to ignore social distancing and other precautions, Caldwell said.
Gym “classes are being taught where no one’s wearing face coverings,” Caldwell said.
The statewide coronavirus case totals to date include 1,373 on Oahu, 153 in Maui County, 117 on Hawaii island and 45 in Kauai County, according to health officials. The total also includes 23 Hawaii residents diagnosed out of state.
Over the past 30 days, there were 839 coronavirus cases — as many as in the five previous months combined, according to Lt. Gov. Josh Green.
“This is a concern because if it keeps going up like this we’re not going to be able to keep up with things. This is the most important advice I can give: no gatherings of more than 10 people … and wear masks whenever you’re out and about with anybody,” said Green in an online post. “The hospitals are beginning to surge. They doubled over at one of our main hospitals, so you’re going to see more fatalities this week if we don’t get things under control.”
Victorino said in a letter to Ige on Friday, “I am gravely concerned about the alarming rise in cases and our ability to continue our heightened response efforts,” adding that he is evaluating the suspension of medium- and high-risk activities in Maui County. “Hawaii must act swiftly to mitigate the spread of this devastating disease.”
On Monday, Victorino said he was still awaiting a response from Ige, but in the meantime implored residents to postpone leisure travel between islands and only travel for essential business such as medical care.
“On Maui, there has been an alarming uptick in cases with a dozen over the weekend. Even more alarming are reports of gatherings of hundreds of people on Maui recently in which they were not wearing face masks or practicing physical distancing,” he said. “These gatherings have been indoors and outdoors, including celebrations and other gatherings. We expect more positive cases on Maui because the virus can spread very quickly, even from people who are asymptomatic.”
The DOH cautions the public to avoid gathering in large groups. Officials said they found at least 36 cases involving people who attended funerals.
Of the 116,387 coronavirus tests conducted so far by state and clinical laboratories, 1.4% have been positive.
The state’s coronavirus-related death toll remains 26: 19 on Oahu, six on Maui and one Kauai resident who died outside of the state. There are 39 people currently hospitalized.