comscore Lt. Gov. Josh Green calls for 2-week pause on gatherings as new coronavirus cases hit 322; Oahu to remain at Tier 2 | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Lt. Gov. Josh Green calls for 2-week pause on gatherings as new coronavirus cases hit 322; Oahu to remain at Tier 2

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                                Home Health client service manager Angel Bergamos, right, smiles while receiving her Moderna COVID-19 vaccination from pharmacist Randy Lam, left, during a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Craigside Apartments on Tuesday in Honolulu.


    Home Health client service manager Angel Bergamos, right, smiles while receiving her Moderna COVID-19 vaccination from pharmacist Randy Lam, left, during a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Craigside Apartments on Tuesday in Honolulu.

Hawaii Department of Health said today’s total number of new infections statewide was the highest since mid-August. Hawaii saw a single-day record of 355 new COVID-19 cases on Aug. 13.

Thirty of today’s 322 new cases were backdated from Dec. 20 through Jan. 5 due to a reporting lag from a laboratory, state health officials said.

“It is too early to tell the impact of holiday travel or gatherings. A large number of residents were diagnosed outside of Hawai‘i,” according to a news release.

According to the latest information from the department’s Hawaii COVID-19 data dashboard, a total of 121 patients with the virus were in Hawaii hospitals as of 8:30 a.m. today, with 24 in intensive care units and 24 on ventilators.

The state has so far vaccinated 25,470 individuals as of 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

“Hawai‘i is doing really well with vaccinations,” Health Director Elizabeth Char said in a news release. “We’ve only had vaccine available to us for three weeks. The Christmas holiday and the New Year’s holiday curtailed our efforts just a bit, but we are ready to ramp up vaccinations going forward. Our goal is to get vaccine to as many people as possible in a safe, secure and orderly manner.”


Lt. Gov. Josh Green is calling for Hawaii residents to avoid all social gatherings for two weeks starting today as state health officials reported the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide hit it a nearly five-month high.

Hawaii health officials today reported 322 new coronavirus infections, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 22,631 cases. Today’s new statewide case count is the highest since mid-August when the number spiked to 355. The latest spike is due primarily to holiday gatherings — some small and some large — that ran from Christmas to New Year’s, Green said.

“What we have seen for last several weeks, we’ve seen the clusters emerge from social gatherings and they’ve not been connected to travel almost at all,” Green told the Star-Advertiser. “I’m personally calling for a two-week pause on all social gatherings as we ramp up the vaccination program. It does not affect our Tier system, it does not affect shopping or retail. But we would benefit from a two-week pause.”

Despite the new record high cases statewide with Oahu hitting 213 new infections today, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said that Oahu will remain in Tier 2.

Oahu moved to the less-restrictive Tier 2 of Honolulu’s four-tier economic recovery plan on Oct. 22. To gauge whether Honolulu will move to a different tier, the city takes a “weekly assessment” of two key COVID-19 numbers each Wednesday. To move to Tier 3 from Tier 2, the 7-day average of new cases must be below 50 on two consecutive Wednesdays. Also, the 7-day average positivity rate must be below 2.5% on those two Wednesdays.

Today’s seven-day average case count for Oahu is 102 and the positivity rate is 4.5%, according to Blangiardi.

“The health and safety of everyone here on O‘ahu is our number one priority,” said Mayor Rick Blangiardi in a statement. “While today’s bump in cases is concerning, I’m confident that we will be able to move forward in a way that is calculated and based on science. A surge in cases was anticipated by our health experts following the holiday season but it’s what we do now that will determine how devastating an impact this will have on our island in the weeks and months to come.”

No new deaths were recorded today, leaving the statewide death toll at 299.

The state’s official coronavirus-related death toll includes 233 fatalities on Oahu, 45 on Hawaii island, 18 on Maui, one on Kauai, and two Hawaii residents who died on the mainland. The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said today that the Big Island’s COVID-19 death toll remained at 51, but state officials have not verified coronavirus as a factor in six of those fatalities.

On Wednesday, Hawaii health officials announced 10 additional deaths, all of whom had underlying conditions and all but one who died in a hospital.

The U.S. coronavirus death toll was above 362,000 today with total coronavirus cases across the nation now topping 21.4 million.

>> RELATED: Kokua Line: Hawaii jobless looking for $300 plus-up, other federal aid extensions

Today’s new statewide infection cases reported by the Health Department include 213 on Oahu, 56 on Maui, 18 on the Big Island, one on Kauai, and 34 state residents diagnosed outside of Hawaii, officials said. As a result of updated information, one Oahu case was removed from the counts.

The statistics released today reflect the new infection cases reported to the department on Tuesday.

The total number of coronavirus cases by island since the start of the outbreak are 18,711 on Oahu, 1,964 in Hawaii County, 1,175 on Maui, 154 on Kauai, 106 on Lanai and 23 on Molokai. There are also 498 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state.

Hawaii health officials said today that of the state’s total infection count, 1,831 cases were considered to be active. Health officials say they consider infections reported in the past 14 days to be a “proxy number for active cases.” The number of active cases in the state increased by 288 today.

By island, Oahu has 1,361 active cases, Maui has 337, the Big Island has 117, and Kauai has 15, and Molokai has one, according to the state’s latest tally. Lanai has no active COVID cases.

Health officials counted 13,546 new COVID-19 test results in today’s tally, for a 2.38% statewide positivity rate. The state’s 7-day average positivity rate is 3.5%.

Of all the confirmed Hawaii infection cases, 1,521 have required hospitalizations, with two new hospitalizations reported today by state health officials.

Three hospitalizations in the statewide count are Hawaii residents who were diagnosed and treated outside the state. Of the 1,518 hospitalizations within the state, 1,338 have been on Oahu, 89 on the Big Island, 78 on Maui, seven on Kauai, five on Lanai and one on Molokai.

In addition to today’s surge in cases, the numbers have been on the rise since Christmas. The hospitalization rate has also increased 77% over the last two weeks, Green said.

Green reported 104 were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of this morning. State health officials have yet to release today’s hospitalization numbers.

“It is mostly social gathering driven,” Green said. “I want to say this openly. I understand the need people had at the end of the year to see loved ones and see people from work. But that has created a significant bump up in cases…We need a quiet two weeks to bring our numbers down. If we do that, we’ll see our numbers drop quickly.”

The 7-day positivity rate for Oahu is at 4.45%, Green said, which is closing in on 5%, when considerations of shutdowns are recommended.

“That’s why I have an urgent call for people to put a pause on social gatherings,” Green said. “I think that if people take it to heart, two weeks after, we’ll see very reasonable numbers again.”

Green said people should also continue to wear face coverings and follow physical distancing guidelines. He said plans to vaccinate seniors 75 and older, along with frontline, essential workers, is expected to ramp up, beginning in mid-January.

State health officials announced today that they have started posting the total number of vaccinations administered statewide. As of Saturday, the department said 25,470 individuals have been vaccinated — including 17,991 in Honolulu County, 3,013 in Maui County, 2,526 in Hawaii County, and 1,940 in Kauai County.

This breaking news story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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