After jaw-dropping 109 new coronavirus cases, state considers reinstating mandates

In light of yet another alarming COVID spike, city, state leaders consider rolling back restrictions

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii reported a jaw-dropping 109 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, in a record single-day high that’s prompting the state to consider imposing new restrictions on bars or closing them entirely and limiting the size of gatherings.

It’s the first time Hawaii has recorded a triple-digit increase in new COVID-19 infections,

The governor on Wednesday said the surge was troubling, but not out of control.

And he pledged in the days ahead to work with Hawaii’s mayors to roll out new restrictions on bars, limit gatherings on beaches and in parks, and keep all gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

Officials say there has been a dramatic increase of COVID-19 cases

During a news conference, Ige said he supports Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s request to shut down Oahu bars for three weeks ― a period the mayor said is needed to come up with new rules for the establishments and to address growing clusters linked with at least two Honolulu bars.

“They have always been identified as high risk locations because the very nature of bars is people go there to socialize,” Ige said. “And when you’re drinking it’s impossible to wear a mask.”

[Read more: Governor wants to close bars again, limit gatherings to rein in COVID-19 surge]

Wednesday’s total follows two days of relatively lower cases due to a drop in laboratory services while Hurricane Douglas neared the state.

But officials said the spike was doubly worrisome because the percentage of all people tested for coronavirus is also on the rise ― from roughly 1% just a few weeks ago to 6% now.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson said in many cases parents are infecting their children. “Twenty-three of today’s cases were people under the age of 18,” he said.

Wednesday also marked the fourth time in the past seven days that Hawaii has set a new single-day record for cases. The previous single-day high of 73 was reported on Saturday.

Of the new cases Wednesday, 98 were on Oahu, nine were on Maui and two were on Kauai.

The state also reported that:

  • Some 61 people with COVID-19 are currently hospitalized and 15 of those are in the ICU. Officials say the hospital system isn’t overwhelmed, but could be if cases aren’t brought down.
  • The new cases push the statewide total for COVID-19 cases to 1,865.
  • So far in July, Hawaii has reported 959 new coronavirus cases ― the vast majority of which are on Oahu. That compares to just 276 cases in all of June.

“The dramatic increase in cases reported today was anticipated based on recent trends since the Fourth of July weekend, which continue,” Anderson said.

“We are seeing an increase in small and large social gatherings, including gatherings on beaches and in our parks, at homes and in workplaces. We have also recently seen an increase in cases associated with bars, gyms, other establishments where physical distancing and masking is not regularly practiced.”

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He recommended “strategic actions” to restrict activities “associated with these cases.”

A new federal report lists Hawaii as among states in the so-called “yellow zone” for coronavirus, indicating between 10 to 100 new cases per 100,000 people and a test positive rate of below 5%. (Hawaii had 15 new cases per 100,000 people last week compared to the national average of 140.)

Even so, the report noted the state’s recent increase in infections and recommended:

  • “Careful monitoring,” especially on activities in bars and restaurants.
  • Limiting social gathering to 10 or fewer people.
  • A continued scale-up of contact tracing efforts.
  • And regular testing of employees and residents in long-term care facilities.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green says if the state doesn’t start knocking back the number of active infections, the consequences could be dire. “If the numbers are really big I can tell you there’s no way schools can open. There’s no way the state can open,” he said.

With the recent surge in cases, he aldo said it’s crucial the state hires more contact tracers so people who have been exposed to the virus can be notified quickly.

“Kalihi alone has needs that are exceeding what we’ve been doing,” said Green.

“There’s just so much work to do the best thing to do is take people off the bench. We’ve trained 400 people. Let’s employ 400 people.”

Anderson said the Department of Health has 190 contact tracers and plans to bring on 20 more in the near future.

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