Oahu can expect more restrictions this week in its battle against a surging coronavirus epidemic.
An announcement came Monday in a brief news release from the Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center.
“Governor David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell met at length today and agree that additional targeted restrictions will be needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on O‘ahu to stop the spread of COVID-19. We anticipate an announcement, with details, this week,” the release said.
Ige said last week he was looking at reestablishing the stay-at-home order and delaying the relaunch of trans-Pacific tourism through a pre-travel testing program, set to begin Sept. 1.
He said he wanted to look at a few more days of data before making a decision about the restrictions.
On Sunday, Lt. Gov. Josh Green told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that another lockdown was warranted due to the increasing coronavirus cases on Oahu.
On Monday, some of Hawaii’s top private health care officials told the House Select COVID-19 Committee that further restrictions are necessary to handle the growing severity of the problem.
While Oahu has seen slight improvement since the the latest round of government restrictions, the epidemic is still doubling every 10 days and on a pace to stress the state’s health system by the end of the month, said Ray Vara, president and CEO of Hawaii Pacific Health.
HMSA President and CEO Mark Mugiishi said hospitals already are rearranging patients to make room for the coronavirus surge.
While advances in therapies and treatments are helping to keep fewer COVID-19 patients out of intensive care units and off ventilators, the pace of Hawaii’s epidemic — with an average of more than 220 cases a day the past week — could soon overburden Oahu’s hospitals, Vara said.
Vara and Mugiishi fell short of recommending a lockdown or more targeted restrictions but agreed something has to be done.
“To continue what we’re doing now and expect a different outcome is not advised,” Vara said.
Among other things, they recommended the creation of an oversight body to advise the state on its COVID-19 strategy.
On Monday, Hawaii health officials reported 174 new coronavirus cases, raising the statewide total since the start of the pandemic to 5,215. The new cases included 163 on Oahu, nine in Maui County and two on Hawaii island.
Monday’s tally came from 2,251 tests. With 174 positive cases, that makes for a positivity rate of about 7.7%. For the past week, Hawaii’s positivity rate was 8.5%.
The World Health Organization has recommended to governments that positivity rates — the percentage of positives per tests conducted — be under 5% before reopening.
The statewide death toll since the start of the outbreak remained at 40.
In other COVID-19 developments:
>> Testing at Oahu Community Correctional Center found 13 more inmates with coronavirus. That brings to 181 the number of inmates testing positive, along with 30 staff members, in the state’s largest cluster. Testing is expected to continue for each of the jail’s 19 housing units.
>> HMSA closed its HMSA centers in Honolulu and Pearl City after 35 employees tested positive over the past week. In addition, HMSA assigned all of its Oahu employees to work from home, except for a minimum staff, for 28 days. HMSA completed cleaning of all work sites where the positive employees were located, the company said.
>> The Hawaii State Teachers Association closed its Red Hill headquarters for cleaning Monday after learning that an employee had prolonged contact with someone who tested positive.
>> Special agents from the Attorney General’s Office arrested Lisa Marlene Penny, 38, at her Kuhio Avenue apartment last Friday. She was reported by the resident manager, who said she refused to comply with a security officer’s warnings about quarantine rules on five different days. Penny arrived in Honolulu on July 31. She allegedly used blocks to keep an electronic door open while she went shopping. Her bail was set at $2,000.
>> Kauai police arrested 51-year-old Shannon Patrick of Longview, Wash., on Thursday for violating the state’s 14-day quarantine and vehicle rental prohibition rules pertaining to COVID-19. The quarantine requires all travelers to stay in an approved accommodation for 14 days, including having food delivered, except for emergency medical purposes. Travelers are also prohibited from renting a vehicle until after their 14 days of quarantine are completed.
>> A Family Court employee at the Honolulu District Court tested positive, the fourth confirmed case for Judiciary employees statewide. Employees with close contact with the affected individual were identified and asked not to go into work and advised to seek guidance from their medical providers.
>> Wahiawa Center for Community Health learned that a medical assistant tested positive. The employee has been in quarantine since being tested on Wednesday. The clinic remains open following a deep cleaning on Friday.