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As Hawaii makes progress in COVID-19 fight, attention turns to how to reopen economy

Published: Apr. 14, 2020 at 9:54 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 14, 2020 at 9:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s daily count for new coronavirus cases has been trending downward in recent days, in an encouraging sign that social distancing efforts are working.

But officials warned Tuesday that returning too quickly to business as usual could be “disastrous.”

“It’s very clear that we are making progress but as we’ve said many times before, this is a marathon. This is not a sprint,” said Gov. David Ige, in a news conference.

“We are flattening the curve. That does not mean we can let our guards down.”

Hawaii reported 13 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 517. Of the 13, four are Hawaii residents who were diagnosed out-of-state. On Monday, just five new cases were reported.

Despite the progress, officials are urging residents to stay the course. A sweeping stay-at-home order continues through April 30, but the state says it could be extended ― or lifted in phases.

“Please do not be over-confident,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green said.

SPECIAL SECTION: COVID-19 Pandemic

“We’ll have to reopen Hawaii at some point and when we reopen Hawaii, we’ll do it safely.”

In addition to the stay-at-home order, a mandatory quarantine remains in place for travelers.

Those orders have shuttered scores of Hawaii businesses, brought tourism to a virtual standstill, closed school campuses and prompted tens of thousands of Hawaii residents to work from home.

And counties also have their own rules aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

Oahu and Kauai, for example, are now requiring people to wear face masks in public.

CONTINUING COVERAGE:

Ige said that even though daily case tallies are going down, the coronavirus continues to circulate in the community. That means lifting restrictions too early could trigger a second wave of cases.

“We all want our lives to return to normal. I know this is not easy," he said, adding that there are emerging tests that could be used to catch cases early or determine whether someone is immune.

“We are not going to reopen our economy until we feel that the testing capability is sufficient, that we have those safeguards in place to protect our community from further spread of the virus.”

Health Director Bruce Anderson echoed that message, saying people should prepare for a long war with the virus rather than a short battle.

“It’s very unlikely this disease is just going to go away,” he said, adding that lifting restrictions too early would be “disastrous." Anderson added, “This is something we’re going to have to manage over a long period of time.”

So far, more than 19,000 people have been tested for coronavirus in Hawaii.

Here’s a look at the county-by-county breakdown of positive cases:

  • Oahu: 358
  • Maui County: 86 (including 2 on Molokai)
  • Big Island: 41
  • Kauai: 21
  • Unknown: 3
  • Diagnosed out of state: 6
  • State total: 517

To get a more detailed breakdown of each county, click here.

Of the reported cases of COVID-19, at least 333 have recovered and been released from isolation. Some 45 patients, meanwhile, have been hospitalized.

No new fatalities were reported Tuesday. The death toll from the virus in Hawaii stands at nine.

In more encouraging news, Green also said hospitals are handling the pandemic well, with plenty of available ICU beds and ventilators.

Just 7% of ventilators available in Hawaii are being used in Hawaii.

This story will be updated.

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