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Hawaii’s total surges with 284 new COVID-19 cases

                                The Moiliili Garden is closed because of the latest COVID-19 shutdown.
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The Moiliili Garden is closed because of the latest COVID-19 shutdown.

Health officials reported 284 new COVID-19 cases in Hawaii on Saturday, making a possible return to stricter emergency rules seem more likely.

In his daily Instagram update, Lt. Gov. Josh Green noted surges in intensive care unit occupancy and ventilator use during the prior 48 hours and said he expects Gov. David Ige to recommend more restrictions on activities to help curb the spread of the virus.

“I do expect the governor will have to likely recommend some additional restrictions in the coming days. We’ll do that to save lives,” he said. “This has been a very tough challenge, I know, for many, but we’re going to get through this together.”

Green reported that 58% of the state’s 244 ICU beds and 16% of its 459 ventilators are in use.

Ige could not be reached for comment.

There have been a total of 4,825 cases statewide since the start of the outbreak, with 2,977 current active infections. Of those active cases, 279 have required hospitalization, including two more on Saturday, according to the state Department of Health.

The new cases break down to 273 on Oahu, seven in Maui County, three on Hawaii island and one on Kauai, according to the state Department of Health.

Included in the Oahu tally are 42 inmates and nine staff at the Oahu Community Correctional Center. So far 166 inmates and 28 staff at the Kalihi prison have tested positive for COVID-19.

The state Department of Public Safety coordinated with the Department of Health to test all OCCC inmates in its 19 housing units, and the results of 104 inmate and 124 staff tests came back Saturday. All remaining inmates will be tested in the coming days, DPS said.

And more public school employees have tested positive for COVID-19, although there is disagreement on the numbers.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association said seven employees — each from a different public school on Oahu — have tested positive for the virus since Wednesday. However, the Department of Education, which publishes a tally of new cases weekly, said six employees from six schools tested positive from Aug. 8 to Friday. Some of the cases announced by HSTA had not been confirmed, the DOE said.

HSTA said the infected employees were from Fern Elementary, Holomua Elementary, Leihoku Elementary, Mililani High School, Roosevelt High School, Wahiawa Middle School and Waikele Elementary.

The DOE said the cases from Wahiawa Middle, Fern Elementary and Mililani High had not been confirmed.

HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said the department is not providing adequate information about the cases.

“The HSTA is doing our best to inform the public and parents about each individual school, but the teachers’ union should not have to do the job of the Department of Education and the Department of Health,” Rosenlee said in a statement. “The DOE and DOH should inform the public as each case occurs. The (DOE’s) approach releasing vague information once a week is the opposite of what the public needs during a pandemic: specific, timely updates.”

According to a count by the DOE on Tuesday, 13 COVID-19 cases have been reported on public school campuses since June 26. Two cases are students, while the others are staff.

Students are set to return to school Monday on modified schedules to accommodate social distancing and prepare for possible distance learning, but the HSTA said returning to school is unsafe for teachers. The union has filed a complaint to the Hawaii Labor Relations Board asking to stop the state from forcing teachers to return to campus.

Kamehameha Schools said it was notified Saturday that two Lower Division (grades K-5) employees tested positive for COVID-19 at its Maui campus, which started classes last week. The school abruptly ended in-person instruction after three days, but officials said that “based on all available information at this time, we do not have reason to believe that students were exposed.”

Staff members who were determined to be “close contacts” with the infected individuals are quarantining and additional contact tracing is being performed, Kamehameha Schools said.

Other recent COVID-19 cases include a resident at Kahala Nui Hiolani Care Center. President and CEO Pat Duarte announced Saturday that the resident was moved to a hospital as the nursing home works with the Health Department in its contact tracing efforts. Residents who may have been in contact with the infected resident will be tested and isolation precautions are in place, Duarte said.

YMCA of Honolulu announced that a participant in its summer day camp program who attended from Monday through Wednesday tested positive for COVID-19. YMCA learned of the case Friday.

“We followed our safety protocols which included immediately separating any participants who may have been exposed to this participant from the rest of the camp,” President and CEO Michael Broderick said in a statement. “There were 11 such participants. … Staff who may have been exposed are being quarantined and offered COVID-19 testing. There are two such persons.”

In an update to previous reports of COVID-19 among Honolulu’s first responders, the Honolulu Emergency Medical Services currently has only one staff member in quarantine. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Aug. 2 that two paramedics had tested positive for COVID-19, while 11 others were in quarantine.

The infected paramedics are clear of the virus, EMS said.

At the Honolulu Police Department, 33 officers are in quarantine, Deputy Chief John McCarthy confirmed Saturday, a drop from nearly 90 about a month ago when a police recruit tested positive for COVID-19, forcing his class of about 40 into self-quarantine.

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