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Hawaii sees record 109 new coronavirus cases; active infections total 624 statewide

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                                Vince Tenorio from Kalihi Kai Urgent Care administered COVID-19 tests at Geiger Community Park in Ewa Beach on July 18, 2020.


    Vince Tenorio from Kalihi Kai Urgent Care administered COVID-19 tests at Geiger Community Park in Ewa Beach on July 18, 2020.

Hawaii recorded 109 new COVID-19 cases today to mark the highest daily count since the pandemic started in the islands in February.

Today’s 109 positive results represents 6.6% of the total 1,653 tests administered, which is higher than the overall positive rate of about 1.5% since the outbreak began. (See correction below.)

“The dramatic increase in cases reported today was anticipated based on recent trends since the Fourth of July weekend, which continue,” state Health Director Bruce Anderson said in a news release.

The state is seeing increases in both small and large social gatherings, including on beaches and in parks, at homes and in workplaces, he said.

Health officials have identified multiple household clusters due to house parties, birthday celebrations, Father’s Day and Fourth of July, religious functions and “co-workers sitting in prolonged meetings while removing masks to eat or drink,” as well as shopping, funeral events, meeting for drinks and socializing at bars, the department said.

The daily count includes 98 on Oahu, nine on Maui and two on Kauai. The number of positive cases statewide is now at 1,863. One Oahu case was removed from the state’s counts today “as a result of updated information,” the Health Department said.

“We have also recently seen an increase in cases associated with bars, gyms other establishments where physical distancing and masking is not regularly practiced. Based on data collected on cases through our investigations and contact tracing, we are recommending that strategic actions be taken to further restrict activities associated with these cases,” Anderson said. “Venues where multiple clusters have been identified, such as in bars and gyms, will obviously be targeted.”

Dozens of COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized following numerous coronavirus outbreaks, including one in Kalihi among Pacific islanders living in large multigenerational households.

“The 109 cases is a serious sign that COVID-19 is about to get away from us so we need to take action immediately,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, adding that he is recommending Gov. David Ige immediately reduce the maximum size of gatherings to 10 and redouble efforts to require mask wearing for anyone outside their immediate family. “That’s the first rational decision that’s got to be made. We need people to not be in any gathering of more than 10 period — no exceptions.”

At this point, schools will “certainly have to delay their opening out of respect to parents and teachers,” Green added, until the Health Department has a “comprehensive health plan to keep them safe,” he added. “Until we see comprehensive DOH plan, it’s difficult to justify opening the schools.”

He is urging the department to hire 500 full-time contact tracers to identify and isolate any new cases of COVID-19 before the situation gets out of control.

“Only with that kind of an army of contact tracers will they be able to contain this surge,” he said. “It is dire because though the cases have been increasing … soon it’s going to exceed the capacity for DOH to trace and test and then it will be out of control and we will simply be reacting to it in the hospital setting.”

Hospitals still have enough capacity, but “it’s going to get worrisome,” according to Green.

The state has had 965 cases over the past 30 days, compared with 900 in first 150 days, with about 10% of people needing to be hospitalized, he said.

Hawaii officials have raised the possibility of reversing recent moves to open the economy after the state saw a spike in daily cases over the last week — 64 new infections on Sunday, 73 on Saturday, 60 on Friday and 55 on Thursday.

Before Thursday, Hawaii’s daily record for new cases was 42 on July 11. On Monday and Tuesday the number dropped to 28 and 47, but only because state laboratories were closed Sunday due to the threat of Hurricane Douglas.

Today’s statewide coronavirus case total includes 1,516 on Oahu, 163 in Maui County, 116 on Hawaii island, and 47 in Kauai County, according to health officials. The total also includes 23 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state.

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. The nationwide death toll topped 150,000 today.

As of today, 624 infections in Hawaii are active cases, with a total of 1,215 patients now classified by health officials as “released from isolation,” or 65% of those infected. Ten new release cases on Oahu were reported today. The category counts those infected people who have met the criteria for being released from isolation.

Of all the confirmed Hawaii cases since the start of the outbreak, 173 have required hospitalizations, with six new hospitalizations reported today, health officials said.

Two hospitalizations in the statewide count are Hawaii residents who were diagnosed and treated outside the state. Of the 161 hospitalizations within the state, 140 have been on Oahu, 26 on Maui, four on Hawaii island, and one on Kauai.

By county, Honolulu has seen 934 patients released from isolation, and Maui has had 125 patients released. Hawaii island has two active infections, while Kauai County has four.

Of the 119,212 coronavirus tests conducted so far by state and clinical laboratories in Hawaii, about 1.5% have been positive.

The recent spike in coronavirus cases has prompted officials to consider reinstating the 14-day interisland travel quarantine, which was lifted June 16.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is also calling for the closure of Oahu bars for three weeks; a mask-wearing mandate for both indoors and outdoors; and the limiting of social gatherings to 10 people or less.

“This is an ugly milestone nobody wanted to see in Hawaii. It may be time for another wake-up call in what we are all doing individually to prevent the spread of this virus even further,” said Dr. James Ireland, a community physician. “At this point we really can’t blame it on tourists and the majority of the businesses, which have made changes to protect us. This comes down to individual responsibility.”

Correction: Today’s 109 positive results represents 6.6% of the total 1,653 tests administered. The Health Department initially reported 5,160 total tests between Tuesday and today, but later corrected that to say 5,160 was the total number of tests between Saturday and today. Based on the earlier incorrect information, the Star-Advertiser calculated an incorrect 2.1% positive rate for today’s tally in an earlier version of this story.
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