Further COVID-19 restrictions imminent

  • David Ige

  • Kirk Caldwell

State officials agree further restrictions on Oahu are necessary to control the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases, but have not yet announced what those restrictions will be.

On Monday afternoon, a terse statement from the Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center read, in full: “Governor David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell met at length today and agreed that additional targeted restrictions will be needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on Oahu. We anticipate an announcement, with details, this week.”

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No more details were forthcoming Monday from Gov. Ige. However, the announcement came after another 174 cases were reported in the state, 162 of which were on Oahu, bringing the total number of cases on that island to 4,754.

A Monday morning meeting of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 came to a similar conclusion that more action is needed to battle the surge.

Raymond Vara, president of Hawaii Pacific Health, presented a graph showing that, at the current rate of community spread, the number of active COVID-19 cases will double every 10 days, and the state will reach ICU capacity by Aug. 29.

Because of this, Vara said, it is clear that further steps must be taken to curb the spread of the virus. However, many at the meeting believed that targeted restrictions on Oahu alone will be better to protect the economic health of the neighbor islands, which have had far fewer cases so far. The Big Island, for example, had two new cases Monday, bringing its total to 149.

Carl Bonham, executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, said during the meeting that a UHERO survey last week indicated that 17% of business owners in the state do not expect their businesses to survive the pandemic, and added that many businesses are “on triage.”

Vara also suggested that more reliable data collection systems are imperative to ensure public safety, saying that the state should make public information about cases, such as the date and location of transmission, the event the transmission took place at, whether the subject was masked or symptomatic, whether the subject might have infected others, and more.

This suggestion mirrored one made by House Speaker Scott Saiki, who sent a nearly identical request to state Health Director Bruce Anderson on Aug. 6.

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Anderson responded to that request Sunday, writing in an email that the Department of Health is preparing a new public data dashboard and is determining how to present further details about transmission of cases without violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountancy Act, which ensures the privacy of a patient’s medical details.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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