State fears residents are becoming too relaxed as COVID-19 becomes ‘entrenched’ in community

Updated: Aug. 4, 2020 at 7:48 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - State officials are mulling over reimposing restrictions as Hawaii continues to see alarming spikes in new COVID-19 cases, triggering concerns that residents are letting down their guard as the virus becomes “entrenched in our community.”

“It’s clear that many across the state has relaxed their commitment in fighting against this COVID-19 infection,” Gov. David Ige said in a press conference Monday afternoon. “We have to take action to embrace the personal responsibility, to do what we can to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

An eye-opening 207 new cases of coronavirus were reported by the state Department of Health earlier in the day ― 83 more than the previous record high, which had been reported just four days ago.

And while many of those cases were from a testing backlog that the state is still suffering through, Ige said it was still “an alarming number that we need to pay attention to.”

Dr. Bruce Anderson, the director of the state Department of Health, said it was fair to say that COVID-19 is endemic in Hawaii, particularly on Oahu, where cases had officially become widespread ― in part, he says, because people are no longer following the guidelines set forth to prevent infections.

“We are seeing that the weak link in our response is the area of prevention,” Dr. Anderson said. “People are relaxing, they are letting down their guard. A number of positive cases can be attributed to letting down their guard.”

Anderson cited a number of viral photos from over the weekend of large crowds gathering in places like Waimea Bay and Maunalua Bay, showing masses of people congregating without wearing masks or socially distancing.

“I was amazed at the number of people on beaches without face coverings who were not physically distancing,” Dr. Anderson said. “Virtually everywhere, I got reports over the weekend, people were acting as though there wasn’t a COVID pandemic that we are dealing with.”

But while city leaders on individual islands have announced some measures to combat further community spread ― Mayor Kirk Caldwell banned social gatherings of more than ten people, both inside and outside, on Monday ― the state did not announce any new preventative measures, choosing instead to ask local residents to practice safer behaviors while interacting with others.

This story will be updated.

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