Few new COVID-19 cases over the past few days, but state urges against complacency

Updated: May. 11, 2020 at 11:50 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Following a brief moment of relief when zero coronavirus cases were reported Friday, the state continues to see additional new cases.

On Monday, two new cases of COVID-19 were reported, bringing the statewide total to 634. Both cases were on Oahu.

Even with the overall low daily case counts, authorities said while the flattened curve is a positive affirmation of strict precautions, residents shouldn’t grow complacent.

“We can’t let our guard down. We’re going to see our case numbers go up if we do,” Bruce Anderson, state Health Department director, told Hawaii News Now. “We still have evidence of at least limited community spread and we have clusters of cases, which suggests we still have COVID-19 here in Hawaii.”

The decline in cases comes as the state and counties are beginning to cautiously reboot the economy, allowing more businesses to reopen and activities in public to resume while warning residents to continue keeping a distance from others in public places and wear a cloth face mask whenever possible.

“Even though we’ve had enough time now to have most of any background virus die out, it’s hard to be totally sure,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

“As we’re going through phase 2 of reopening our economy, we want to be almost perfect if we can be. That way we will know what the impact of bringing tourism back is. We’ll know exactly what levers to pull to protect ourselves from a surge then.”

The last time Hawaii reported no new daily increase in COVID-19 cases was March 13.

The state has seen its new daily case count remain under 10 for nearly three weeks after reporting double-digit increases daily in late March and early April.

The drop in new infections has prompted growing conversations about how the state can return to some semblance of normal — while people still take precautions to prevent a resurgence.

On Thursday, retailers and shopping malls were given the green light to reopen on the Big Island and Kauai. They’re allowed to reopen Monday on Maui. And on Oahu, the reopening date has been set for May 15.

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Hawaii has been under a strict stay-at-home order since late March — a series of emergency proclamations that shut down the tourism industry, bars and dine-in areas in restaurants, and most businesses.

While retailers and other businesses are reopening, restaurants are still only allowed to do takeout, barber shops and salons can’t operate, and the tourism industry remains largely at a standstill.

The closures have led to unprecedented levels of unemployment in Hawaii, with tens of thousands of people now out of work. The unemployment rate in Hawaii stands at about 35% — the highest in the nation.

Before the pandemic, Hawaii’s unemployment was among the lowest in the nation at under 3%.

Nationally, the unemployment rate stands at just under 15%, and the US Labor Department reported Friday that 20.5 million jobs vanished in April in the worst monthly loss on record.

The last time the US saw such a significant percentage of the labor force out of work was the Great Depression. “The jobs report from hell is here,” Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, told AP. “One never seen before and unlikely to be seen again barring another pandemic or meteor hitting the Earth.”

This story will be updated.

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