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Hawaii braces for holidays amid pandemic

                                Mayor Kirk Caldwell discussed enforcement of COVID-19 rules and Halloween guidance on Wednesday. Honolulu Police Department Chief of Police Susan Ballard watched in the back.


    Mayor Kirk Caldwell discussed enforcement of COVID-19 rules and Halloween guidance on Wednesday. Honolulu Police Department Chief of Police Susan Ballard watched in the back.

Hawaii health officials reported 62 new COVID-19 infections statewide Wednesday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 14,834 cases, as the state prepares for the upcoming holiday season while still recovering from the coronavirus outbreak.

No new deaths were reported for the third day this week, and the Department of Health dropped two coronavirus-related fatalities — one each from Lanai and Maui — from the statewide death toll, which now stands at 213.

“As a result of updated information, two previously reported deaths were determined to not be related to COVID-19 and were removed from the counts,” health officials said.

The department’s official state death toll includes 166 fatalities on Oahu, 30 on Hawaii island, 16 on Maui, and one Kauai resident who died on the mainland. The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said Tuesday that Hawaii island’s COVID-19 death toll is now at 40. However, state health officials have yet to verify coronavirus as a factor in some of the deaths reported by Hawaii County.

The U.S. coronavirus death toll was over 227,000 as of Wednesday.

The new cases include 41 on Oahu, seven on Lanai, five on Hawaii island, two on Maui, one on Kauai, and six Hawaii residents diagnosed out of state. As a result of updated information, state health officials also removed one Oahu case from the state’s tally.

On Monday, the health department started listing Lanai and Molokai’s infection tallies separately from Maui in its daily counts.

Lanai is now up to 94 total cases, which have come during an outbreak that started about a week ago. The island is receiving $47,250 in funding for its response to the current outbreak. The funding from the Hawaii Community Foundation will support Lanai Community Health Center’s efforts.

LANAI, WHICH HAD been free of COVID-19 cases until last week, is currently in a stay-at-home order.

Oahu, meanwhile, continues to keep COVID-19 at bay.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Wednesday said Oahu’s 41 cases were low for a weekday, and he was hopeful about getting the island into the less-restrictive Tier 3 — of Oahu’s four-tier economic recovery plan — by Thanksgiving.

Tier 3 would allow groups of 10 to gather.

“Oahu, you’re doing incredible things. It’s unbelievable,” Caldwell said.

The island moved to Tier 2 on Oct. 22, and must stay in that tier for four weeks before graduating to Tier 3. Oahu must maintain a seven-day average case count of 49 or fewer cases, and a seven-day average positivity rate of 2.49% or lower for 14 consecutive days at the end of the four-week period. Wednesday’s seven-day average case count is 49 and the positivity rate was 2% for Oahu.

Honolulu Police Department Chief Susan Ballard, in contrast to Caldwell, asked the public to stick to small gatherings throughout the holiday season.

“Let’s just bypass this year with intimate gatherings,” she said.

The Senate Special Committee on COVID-19 expressed concerns of a “holiday spike” in COVID-19 cases between December and February of next year. Queen’s Health Systems’ President and CEO Jill Hoggard Green on Wednesday reported to the committee the possibility of a spike based on models and projections from data Queen’s has collected since March.

“The members of this committee and I are deeply concerned about a potential spike of infections over the holidays,” committee chair Donovan Dela Cruz said in a statement. “We’ve asked Dr. Green and her team to gather additional data and provide its predictions and, as importantly, what steps the state must take to prevent the spike. We all believe the public needs to hear what the situation is likely to be on the ground so that we can all plan accordingly.”

SINCE THE START of the COVID-19 outbreak in Hawaii, there have been 12,953 total cases on Oahu, 1,238 on Hawaii island, 405 on Maui, 94 on Lanai, 63 on Kauai and 17 on Molokai. There are also 64 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state.

There are 3,016 “active” cases statewide, as a total of 11,605 patients have been reported as “released from isolation,” or 78% of those infected, according to the state’s official count. The category counts those infected people who have met the criteria for being released from isolation.

The health department reported 4,122 tests conducted on Wednesday and a 1.6% statewide test positivity rate.

Eight new COVID-19 hospitalizations — seven on Oahu and one on Hawaii island — were reported by the DOH on Wednesday. Of all confirmed cases in Hawaii, 1,081 have required hospitalizations.

Two hospitalizations in the statewide count are Hawaii residents who were diagnosed and treated outside the state. Of the 1,079 hospitalizations within the state, 955 have been on Oahu, 64 on Hawaii island, 57 on Maui, and one each on Lanai, Molokai and Kauai.

According to the latest data from the health department, a total of 61 patients with COVID-19 are in Hawaii hospitals, with 15 in intensive care units and 12 on ventilators.

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