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Officials urge Hawaii to remain wary of virus

Hawaii officials Sunday reported four new corona­virus-related deaths — two each on Oahu and Hawaii island — and 57 new COVID- 19 infections statewide.

While the pandemic continues to rage across the mainland, Hawaii remains among the states with the lowest infection rates.

But officials, who are bracing for a bump in cases in the next few weeks following the Thanksgiving holiday, continue to urge people to be wary of the virus.

“COVID-19 isn’t taking a break, and neither should we,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell posted on social media Sunday. “Let’s continue to protect each other as we head further into the holiday season.”

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said fewer people are being treated for coronavirus in Hawaii’s hospitals than the state has seen in some time, and rates in the islands are lower now than when the state opened tourism with a pre-travel testing Safe Travels program six weeks ago.

“If we keep disciplined, Hawaii can lead the nation and, frankly, the world in low cases,” Green said.

But a group of doctors says it plans to hold a news conference today to discuss why the state’s Safe Travels program isn’t as safe as it appears on the surface.

In a news release, the group said it plans to discuss the results of a study that makes the case that the program is allowing in many times more infected travelers than predicted.

Elsewhere, Gov. David Ige approved Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami’s request to opt out of the Safe Travels program, which effectively stops all nonessential travel to Kauai, starting Wednesday.

Kawakami made his request following dozens of new COVID-19 infections, especially travel-related cases on Kauai.

“Given the national surge of COVID cases on the mainland, Kauai is unable to adequately protect itself by utilizing the Safe Travels program at this time,” the mayor said.

The Kauai District Health Office on Sunday reported two new travel-related cases of COVID-19: male and female residents who participated in the Safe Travels program and reportedly boarded their flight after receiving positive pre-travel test results. The two are now in isolation.

The decision to back out of the pre-travel testing program means that as of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday most trans-Pacific and interisland travelers arriving on Kauai will be subject to the 14-day quarantine regardless of test results.

Sunday’s statewide numbers bring coronavirus totals in Hawaii since the start of the pandemic to 244 deaths and 17,840 cases.

No details were immediately available about the latest deaths, but the Big Island deaths were likely among fatalities previously reported by the county that have been pending verification by the state.

The U.S. coronavirus death toll was more than 266,000 Sunday as the nation recorded over 13.3 million cases. The coronavirus death stats are at their highest levels since the spring.

Hawaii’s numbers, including a statewide positivity rate of 1%, reflect cases as of Friday.

New infection cases in Hawaii included 47 on Oahu, four on the Big Island, three on Maui, one on Kauai and two Hawaii residents diagnosed outside the state.

Hawaii health officials said the state’s total infection count was 1,254 cases Sunday, a number that dropped by 50 cases.

According to the Hawaii COVID-19 data dashboard, 60 patients with the virus were in Hawaii hospitals as of noon Friday, with 17 in intensive care units and 14 on ventilators.

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