Oahu is on track to move into the next level of reopening the economy in one week with restrictions on gyms, personal services and other activities being lifted as long as coronavirus cases remain low.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Thursday urged residents to continue limiting gatherings to no more than five people and following COVID-19 precautions to ensure the number of cases and positivity rate decline or stay flat.
“We all want to get there. Don’t go around in groups of more than five. Don’t do that so we can get into Tier 2,” he implored residents during a news conference at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine.
Last month Caldwell announced his four-tier reopening strategy for Oahu. The island started at Tier 1 and can move in steps to Tier 4 if COVID-19 cases remain low.
Oahu’s seven-day average case count was 67 on Thursday, the 16th straight day below 100, while the seven-day average positivity rate was 3.3%, the 22nd consecutive day below 5%. The island’s seven-day average case count must stay below 100 and its positivity rate must be below 5% for 14 consecutive days to move into Tier 2 on Thursday.
“When we get to Tier 2, we’ve got to stay below average, or we could end up moving back (to Tier 1). We don’t ever want to move back,” he said. “We’re going into a period where we just opened up to visitors today … and kids are returning to school and absolutely necessary, but because of these things we could see an increase in the number of cases, which is why we have to be extra careful right now.”
Hawaii recorded one new coronavirus death on Oahu and 91 new infections statewide Thursday, bringing the totals since the start of the pandemic to 184 fatalities and 13,764 cases. The latest fatality was a man over age 80 who had an underlying condition.
The new infection cases include 74 on Oahu, 13 on Hawaii island, two in Maui County and two Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state. Health officials counted 3,489 tests in the daily tally for a 2.6% statewide positivity rate.
There are 2,665 infections considered active statewide, and 10,915 patients now considered recovered, or about 79% of those infected.
Meanwhile, the city has built a COVID-19 laboratory at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine with as much as $4 million in federal CARES Act funds. The lab will be able to conduct up to 100,000 tests a year to support seven community health centers testing underserved populations. The facility will initially be able to process up to 500 diagnostic polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests per day and surge up to 1,000 tests per day if necessary, Caldwell said. The test kits are being developed and analyzed at the lab, so the turnaround time for results is estimated at 24 to 48 hours.
The tests are free for residents, with or without health insurance, with some reserved for first responders and City and County of Honolulu workers.
“Starting Monday you can get a free COVID test,” Caldwell said. “I encourage our residents in the community to come here … and get tested. It’s important for everyone’s health. Next week on this day there will be an order entered by the governor moving us into Tier 2, and hopefully then on to Tier 3 and 4.”
Go to oneoahu.org for more information.