(BIVN) – Hawaiʻi administration officials held another media conference on Wednesday afternoon, in which they shared various updates on the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response.
The office of Governor David Ige provided these updates:
Safer-at-Home Means Keeping the Curve Flat
This is the second week since Governor Ige issued the Safer-At-Home order and at an afternoon media briefing he said he is pleased the cases reported today continue to remain low. With only three new cases today, Hawai‘I is one of the safest states in the nation in the fight against COVID-19. In addition to the low number of new cases, Hawai’i has achieved some other key metrics, permitting the re-opening of specific sectors of our economy.
With Mall and Retail Reopening’s Governor Encourages Continued Vigilance
On Friday, many retail stores and shopping malls on O‘ahu can reopen under the Safer-At-Home order, joining retailers and malls that have already opened on the neighbor islands. Today, Governor Ige encouraged residents to shop at the newly opened stores and malls, but to please remain vigilant. Ige commented, “Please follow social distancing requirements at malls and stores. Avoid congregating and gathering in large groups. And please wear your face masks. Remember that malls are not places to loiter. Please make your purchases and head home where it is safer.”
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green provided these updates:
Lt. Gov. Green Proposes “Travel with Aloha” Program
As the state looks toward the eventual reopening of air travel to and around the state, Lt. Governor Josh Green proposed a program, he’s calling, “Travel with Aloha,” at this afternoon’s media briefing. He believes such a program will help the state mitigate possible importation of coronavirus from traveling visitors and residents. A key component of Green’s proposal is having visitors and returning residents voluntarily getting COVID-19 tests within 72-hours of their departure to the islands. People who decline to get tested would undergo additional testing and screening upon arrival at State airports. Green said, “This could cut several hours from their vacation or return home and they could be required to undergo a possible 14-day mandatory quarantine.” He added, “It’s imperative we do everything we can to safeguard our state from importing coronavirus through travel, while maintaining our community’s aloha for visitors.”
Report on Statewide Hospital Bed Capacity
During today’s COVID-19 news briefing, Lt. Gov. Green also noted a Harvard Global Health Institute study that announced Hawai‘i is among nine states that have exceeded testing minimums necessary for reopening. Supporting this study, he said if there were a large number of positive cases that have not been detected or reported, we would see more COVID-19 positive patients in our healthcare system. “We are still doing great, in terms of our hospital capacity,” Green commented. Across the state, 54% of all hospital beds are in use, 43% of intensive care unit beds are occupied, and ventilator use is only at 12%. He is encouraging people to get medical treatment if needed and to not fear hospitalization. [More on the Harvard/NPR study]
From the Hawaiʻi Department of Health:
Contacting Tracing and Testing Capacity
DOH is working on a plan to rapidly increase testing and contact tracing capacity. As more businesses open back up, this will be necessary to detect and respond to any increase in new cases. An important part of the contact tracing plan is ensuring adequate numbers of people who are well trained. DOH Director Dr. Bruce Anderson has put together a partnership with the University of Hawai‘i for a program which will train 300 more contract tracers who can be mobilized in case of a surge. This is in addition to the more than 80 contract tracers already available. At Wednesday’s news briefing UH President David Lassner provided an update on the university’s role in the contact tracing program. (See item below)
DOH Reiterates Continued Need for Vigilance During Safer-at-Home Phase
Complacency is a serious concern as reports of fewer cases inadvertently signals less urgency. Informal gatherings are being observed and people are doing less social distancing and everyone is not wearing a mask. Any success we are seeing now will backslide if everyone in our communities does not comply with stay at home, social distancing, mask-wearing, and other measures to keep the spread of coronavirus controlled. State legislators are urged to remind their constituents that maintaining community efforts and sacrifices will allow us to reopen the state. Not complying will likely create a second wave of COVID-19 and delay reopening businesses and resumption of travel.