(BIVN) – The following updates were provided by various federal, state and county agencies:
Two New Positive Cases on Oʻahu
As of March 18, 2020, noon, there is a total of 16 confirmed or presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Hawai‘i. New positive results were announced today for two O‘ahu residents who traveled outside Hawai‘i. The Department of Health (DOH) is monitoring these individuals and supervising their isolation as well as the self-quarantine of their family members.
One of the O‘ahu cases announced this past Monday, March 16, was a Kualoa tour operator who had not traveled, but was exposed to travelers daily. Three family members from the individual’s household were tested with negative results. All cases who tested positive in Hawaiʻi are travel related. There is no evidence of community spread in Hawai‘i at this time.
Health officials say 9 individuals are under currently investigation, with testing pending.
Hawaiʻi Island: 1 Case
“The Department of Health confirmed yesterday the first case of coronavirus on Hawaii Island,” Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense said on Wednesday. “A person in Hawaii County tested positive for the coronavirus and has been and continues to be isolated and is currently being monitored by the Department of Health.”
“The Department of Health is working to identify who might have had close contact with this person,” civil defense said.
DOH COVID-19 Website Launched
The Hawai‘i Department of Health today unveiled a new website for the public to access the latest information on COVID-19 in Hawai‘i. The website, hawaiicovid19.com, went live at 3 p.m.
“The State of Hawai‘i has mobilized an inter-agency collaborative effort to keep the community safe and healthy,” health officials said. “The website provides timely information and resources on the coronavirus, including guidance on how to prevent and mitigate community spread, common symptoms of COVID-19, and frequently asked questions. Please read and share the information.”
“By providing our family and friends, our neighbors and our visitors with accurate information, we keep our community healthy and we keep Hawaiʻi a welcoming place to live and visit,” the state said. “Don’t spread the virus. Don’t spread misinformation. And let’s prepare together. Always share aloha.”
Compliance with Governor’s Directives
The Hawai‘i Department of Health is fully endorsing Gov. David Ige’s directives to close establishments that typically attract large numbers of people, and to limit employees in the workplace to minimize exposure. While these are not mandates with consequences for non-compliance, these directives require the cooperation of businesses, organizations and individuals to be effective from a public health perspective.
“We can be more effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 if everyone takes these aggressive actions seriously,” Anderson said. “The response to the Governor’s directives has been positive so far and there are many, such as food establishments, which have identified alternative ways to serve the public with drive-through and take-out service to maintain their operations.”
“Our communities on islands other than O‘ahu: Kauai County, Maui County, and Hawai‘i County, are essentially rural in nature and their medical resources are severely limited,” said Hawaiʻi State Senate President Ron Kouchi (D-Kauai). “To preserve these limited medical resources for rural community residents and to flatten the curve of the effects of COVID-19, I strongly support Governor David Ige’s March 17, 2020 statement that all non-Hawai‘i residents should practice social distancing by staying in their own communities and not come to Hawai‘i at this time.”
Social Distancing: A New Way of Expressing Aloha
In Hawai‘i’s close-knit communities, federal, state and county mandates for social distancing can be a difficult message to accept. Island residents are accustomed to gathering together for social and public events and expressing their support and aloha for each other with hugs and other signs of affection.
COVID-19 recommendations are changing the rules on how much physical distance individuals should keep from each other, but the aloha spirit prevails in the islands. Social distancing is a new way of expressing aloha. Cancelling events that do not allow attendees to be at least six feet apart—the equivalent of two arms length—and avoiding unnecessary physical meeting with others are proven strategies to mitigate the spread of the virus. However, the effectiveness of these initiatives largely depends on the cooperation and compliance from the public.
“It may feel counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to show aloha for each other at this critical time is to refrain from being in large gatherings and to keep a safe, healthy distance from each other,” said Bruce Anderson, director of the Hawai‘i Department of Health. “These unprecedented times require a new way of thinking. You may be healthy, but others around you may not be as fortunate. By practicing social distancing, you’re limiting the potential for exposure to any illness in your household and protecting everyone in our community. We all need to consider the health and wellbeing of others, especially seniors, those with preexisting health conditions and others whose health may be compromised.
Anderson noted that technology enables us to have social distance without sacrificing emotional connection. “When feasible, we should use tools available for virtual meetings by phone, tablet or computer as a way to maintain contact with loved ones, especially kupuna in care homes given Gov. Ige’s directive to refrain from visiting nursing homes, retirement or long-term care facilities at this time.”
Criteria for Screening Sites
There are limited supplies of COVID-19 testing in Hawai‘i, and this makes prudent use of these resources a priority. Many who are well or experiencing only mild flu-like symptoms may want a COVID-19 test for peace of mind, but this is not a good use of the testing resources. The DOH wants to underscore the criteria for testing and how to properly use the screening sites so that only those who critically need the tests, including older adults and those with existing health conditions, can have access when they need them.
The state says the public should heed the following steps:
- First, contact your healthcare provider in advance to determine if you need to have an in-person visit with your provider. If you do not have a healthcare provider, call the nearest healthcare provider to see if you should come in or remain at home.
- Your provider will determine over the phone whether you meet the criteria for COVID-19 testing.
- If your provider directs you to come in for a screening, bring a photo ID and your provider’s order.
- Your provider will take a swab for testing.
- The specimen will be sent to a private or state lab for the results. During this time, you are expected to self-quarantine at home until the test results are available, which could be up to 3 to 4 days.
- If you are healthy or experiencing mild to moderate flu-like symptoms, DOH urges you to stay at home and avoid an unnecessary visit to a screening site. The screening sites are only for those who are severely ill with COVID-19 symptoms.
Hawaiʻi County Water Safe, In-Person Payments Suspended
From the Hawaiʻi County Department of Water Supply:
In response to growing public concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Water Supply (DWS), County of Hawai‘i wants to reassure customers their water remains safe to drink and inform the public of safety measures intended to slow the spread of the virus.
DWS stresses its unwavering commitment to providing an adequate supply of safe, reliable and affordable water to more than 100,000 people daily. The water DWS provides continues to undergo regular and rigorous testing that shows it exceeds state and federal drinking water requirements. The island’s supply of potable water is not vulnerable to contamination by COVID-19, also known as coronavirus.
DWS prioritizes health and safety, which is why it will suspend all in-person payment collections and customer service inquiries for 30 calendar days starting Friday, March 20. During this period, DWS will accept only telephone, online, auto-payment and payments sent through the mail. All customer service inquiries will be handled by phone or email. The public’s understanding is very much appreciated.
The remote payment options are free and secure.
To pay a DWS water bill online, please visit www.hawaiidws.org, click on the “Pay Your Bill Online” tab on the home page and follow the easy-to-use self-service portal. Don’t forget to input the full nine-digit ZIP code. Please make certain to visit the official DWS website, which has a homepage featuring a waterfall, to avoid mistakenly making payment through unauthorized copycat sites that charge fees.
Customers wishing to pay by telephone should call toll-free 844-216-1994 anytime. There are no fees for phone payments. Online credit and debit card payments are limited to $500 per transaction. The transaction limit is $10,000 for those making an e-check payment.
DWS customers can opt to have payment deducted from their checking account by enrolling in the automatic bill payment option. DWS does not charge fees for automatic payments.
These “social distancing” methods reflect the latest recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with the advice of local and national leaders. They are intended to help protect customers, DWS employees and Hawai‘i Island communities from COVID-19 infection.
by Big Island Video News
HAWAIʻI ISLAND - All cases who tested positive for COVID-19 in Hawaiʻi are travel related, health officials say, and there is no evidence of community spread in the state at this time.