Hawaii’s latest reported death from COVID-19 was a 36-year-old front-line worker at the Institute for Human Services who helped the homeless and others in need.
Willie Talamoa had worked with the IHS for some time in the 2000s and returned just a few months ago as a guest services assistant, according to IHS Executive Director Connie Mitchell.
“He really cared a lot about the people that we served. It was very obvious, so I’m really going to miss him and we’re really hoping to support the family,” Mitchell said. “For somebody to choose it while people are vulnerable and stuff, it was a testament to the fact that he really wanted to serve, I think.”
Talamoa’s passing raised Hawaii’s death toll from COVID-19 to 47. The state Department of Health also reported Saturday 284 new cases for a total of 6,356 since March. With the recent surge in cases, the number of active infections stands at 4,202, the DOH reported.
On Oahu, 259 new cases were reported Saturday, with 15 new cases on Hawaii island, 10 on Maui and none of Kauai.
Officials did not release information on how Talamoa may have contracted the virus, but Mitchell said he worked in close contact with the IHS’s homeless clientele.
“For a long time we felt really good about the fact that we hadn’t had incidents of COVID among our homeless populations for many months, but then I think when we had this surge it just seemed to break into all different kinds of groups all over our community, and we were no different,” she said.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Public Safety reported Saturday that one more inmate at Oahu Community Correctional Center had tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 243 inmates and 48 staff members, all but six at OCCC, had contacted the virus.
There are 973 inmates and 500 employees at the Kalihi prison, according to the latest count from Aug. 17.
The initial round of mass testing at OCCC was completed Thursday, the DPS said, and the DOH will be conducting follow-up testing on all inmates in the coming weeks.
DPS also reported Saturday that 11 more inmates were released Friday as part of a plan to reduce the prison population and prevent the further spread of the virus.
In his daily Instagram video Saturday, Lt. Gov. Josh Green expressed concern about the high number of active cases in the state. “This will translate to a lot of hospitalizations in the coming two to three weeks,” he said.
Green said almost half of the state’s 244 intensive care beds are occupied by patients suffering from various conditions and 12% of 459 ventilators are in use. However, so far only 35 ICU beds and 19 ventilators are being used for patients with COVID-19, he reported.
Saturday also marked two weeks since an order by Gov. David Ige and Mayor Kirk Caldwell that closed Oahu beaches and parks to the public, limited social gatherings and shut down team sports, playgrounds, camping, hiking trails and botanical gardens.
Green noted there hasn’t been a significant decrease in daily COVID-19 numbers and he is worried tougher stay-at-home measures may be necessary.
“I’m afraid there are simply too many loopholes and half-measures in the current plan which are allowing the virus to spread,” Green said in a written response to a question from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “With spread at the current rate, the five-person gathering concept is fundamentally unsound. It allows people from multiple at-risk groups to spread the virus. It is actually a recipe for spreading the virus.”
Green advocated for a statewide mask mandate, pouring more resources into testing and contact tracing, and providing more protections for high-risk groups.