Hawaii health officials reported a record 231 new coronavirus cases Saturday on the first day that the city and state closed beaches and parks on Oahu and restricted other activities.
The state Department of Health also said an Oahu man, older than 60, died Friday due to COVID-19. His death is being recorded as the 31st since the pandemic began, after a previously reported death of a woman on Wednesday was removed from the tally after her attending physician determined she likely died from an underlying condition, health officials said.
The statewide total since the start of the pandemic has risen to 3,346 and surpassed 200 for two days in a row. Most of the cases have been on Oahu, prompting Gov. David Ige to announce on Thursday a partial interisland 14-day quarantine to begin Tuesday for all travelers visiting a neighbor island from Oahu or traveling between the neighbor islands. The quarantine doesn’t apply to those people coming to Oahu.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the number of cases should begin falling as the closures and quarantine take effect.
“We’ll likely see cases in the triple digits for another week, then the numbers should begin to drop,” he said. “If we do very well socially distancing, the numbers on Oahu could be back to the 20-30 a day or better by 9/1.”
Oahu once again led the way with cases on Saturday with 223, followed by five on Hawaii island and three on Maui. Kauai had zero cases and has had the fewest cases with just 47 overall. A total of 24 coronavirus-related deaths have been on Oahu, six on Maui, and one was a Kauai resident who died on the mainland.
The DOH also said it erroneously reported Club 939, a Keeaumoku Street “gentleman’s club,” as the venue where a female dancer with COVID-19 had recently worked. Owner Stewart Shirasu said the dancer had stopped working at the club some six months ago.
The Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center, which corrected its statement later, said the dancer worked at an unknown club on July 25.
Shirasu said he had talked on Friday with a DOH employee — presumably a contact tracer — who found out about the dancer’s employment through the Honolulu Liquor Commission, which requires dancers to have a liquor card to work.
Shirasu said the dancer was being uncooperative with the DOH and never mentioned where she worked.
“We actually do a temperature check of all our employees and also write down the names on a log, a daily log,” he said. “I went to the office, got the information, looked through that day, and she wasn’t on there.”
It took about an hour to confirm that the infected dancer did not work at Club 939, Shirasu said. He sent the DOH employee some evidence, and they were finished around 5 p.m.
Still, the joint information center reported Saturday morning that the infected dancer worked at Club 939.
“We had this whole fiasco, which I thought was settled (Friday), and then I wake up (Saturday) morning and people are blasting my phone saying that you have a COVID-19-positive dancer,” he said.
Neither the COVID-19 Joint Information Center nor DOH were available for comment, but the error was acknowledged.
“The clarification about the identification of the club came into DOH leadership after-hours on Friday and the department regrets the error,” the COVID-19 Joint Information Center said in the statement. “DOH is attempting to identify the club where the worker danced on July 25th as health investigators have been unable to identify all close contacts who potentially could have been exposed to COVID-19.”
Shirasu didn’t blame the contact tracer, who he said could be overwhelmed, but still isn’t sure why his club was reported in the release.
“It’s just stressful having customers call dancers and then dancers calling me, and it all trickles down,” he said. “I just think it further shows how ill-prepared, irresponsible they are over there managing their information.”
Mayor Kirk Caldwell ordered Club 939 and all other bars in Honolulu to close for three weeks at the end of July after a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Saturday’s statewide coronavirus case total includes 2,964 on Oahu, 182 in Maui County, 128 on Hawaii island, and 47 in Kauai County, according to health officials. The total also includes 23 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside the state.
Three more Honolulu firefighters have tested positive for COVID-19, the Honolulu Fire Department confirmed Saturday, bringing the total number of HFD firefighters with the virus up to 14.
Two of the firefighters were from the Kalihi Kai Fire Station, and the other was from the Hawaii Kai Fire |Station. All were already in self-quarantine when they were tested, HFD said.
All affected personnel from the two fire stations and Moanalua Fire Station are in self-quarantine and are being monitored.
Hawaii’s string of triple-digit increases in new infections over the past week has led the state and county to reinstate restrictions.
On Friday, Ige and Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto announced that Oahu’s public schools would start on Aug. 17 with online distance learning for the first four weeks.
As of Saturday, 1,804 infections in Hawaii are known to be active cases, with a total of 1,511 patients now classified by health officials as “released from isolation,” or about 45% of those infected. The category counts those infected people who have met the criteria for being released from isolation. Forty-four new release cases were reported Saturday.
Friday was the first day in months that the number of active infections was more than 50% of the total number of cases since the outbreak started.
Of all the confirmed Hawaii cases, 237 have required hospitalization, with six new hospitalizations on Oahu reported Saturday, health officials said. Green said Saturday that there are 105 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 24 patients in intensive care units and 15 on ventilators.
Two hospitalizations in the statewide count are Hawaii residents who were diagnosed and treated outside the state. Of the 235 hospitalizations within the state, 204 have been on Oahu, 26 on Maui, four on Hawaii island and one on Kauai.
By county, Honolulu has seen 1,203 patients released from isolation, and Maui has had 147 patients released. Hawaii County has 13 active infections, while Kauai has none, according to Health Department figures.
Officials counted 2,698 new tests in Saturday’s tally, with the 231 positive cases representing about 8.5% of the total tested. Of the 141,944 coronavirus tests conducted so far by state and clinical laboratories in Hawaii since the start of the outbreak, nearly 2.4% have been positive.