HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state reported two additional COVID-19 fatalities on Thursday, bringing the statewide death toll from the virus to 29.
The new deaths come as the state continues to see an alarming surge in new coronavirus infections.
Health officials said one of the victims was an elderly woman with underlying conditions who had been a resident at a Pearl City nursing home.
The other fatality was an elderly man linked to a gym cluster.
Both had been hospitalized, though the state Health Department did not say for how long.
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Officials did say, however, that the man’s death underscores how rapidly the virus is spreading through the community. “A close contact of this individual attended a spin class at a gym taught by a person linked to the Hawaiian Airlines cluster,” said state Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park, in a news release.
Meanwhile on Thursday, the state reported 152 new COVID-19 cases.
Of those, 148 were on Oahu, three were on Maui and one was on the Big Island.
In addition, the number of people hospitalized grew to 117. Of those, 21 people are in the ICU and 14 are on ventilators.
Altogether, Hawaii now has nearly 1,400 active COVID-19 cases ― up from 249 a month ago.
Hawaii’s caseload has increased dramatically in recent weeks ― by 231% over the last 14 days alone — giving the state has the second-highest rate of new infections in the country.
Officials have warned if the surge continues, hospitals in the islands could run out of ICU beds by the end of the month. Lt. Gov. Josh Green said one hospital’s intensive care unit on Oahu was already at capacity on Tuesday.
And with Oahu seeing the highest increases in new cases, neighbor island mayors are urging the governor to reinstate a mandatory quarantine for inter-island travel and keep public schools closed.
At the Capitol, state senators grilled Dr. Park about contact tracers, trained people who help isolate patients and find others who may be infected.
Dr. Park insisted DOH has 105 with hundreds more ready to be hired.
The senators disputed that telling her employees within the agency say it’s much lower.
“These numbers don’t add up,” said an exasperated Senator Donna Mercado Kim.
Dr. Park said the landscape of contact tracers was changing rapidly and insisted that was one reason the numbers wouldn’t always make sense.