HILO, Hawaii (KHON2) — One new death was reported by the Hawaii Department of Health on Sunday, Aug. 30.

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On Sunday morning, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim announced the island’s first COVID-19 death. Around noon, in a phone call with KHON2, he said he had learned of a second death.

“I was notified there are now two fatalities in our city of Hilo,” said Mayor Kim. “Concern is not an adequate word to express what I feel about what’s going on, I’m more than concerned.”

Hawaii County has seen a surge in cases the past few weeks.

On Sunday, Hawaii County had more COVID-19 cases than Maui County. As of Sunday, there are 166 active cases on Hawaii island.

The virus started to spread a few weeks ago after a large funeral service was held.

Hawaii Lieutenant Governor Dr. Josh Green said there were about 500 people at the service.

“There were some raves that were going on, that unfortunately contributes to spread,” he said. “Any large gatherings it doesn’t matter what they are, will contribute to spread and spread will then seep into the kupuna population and then you see fatalities in the hospital.”

Lt. Gov. Green said he’s been told of residents and visitors renting short term rentals in the Hilo area and then going over to the Kona side.

“That’s a recipe for spread. They have to be totally serious if they want to keep it from getting out of control,” he said.

He said 17 of Hawaii Island’s 24 ICU beds are occupied.

“Only seven vacant ICU beds on Big Island as of this moment, so a quick rise in the count can be very dangerous,” Lt. Gov Green said.  

He said it’s likely to get a lot worse on Big Island, “If they don’t quickly get control of it.”

COVID testing was held across Hawaii Island this past week.

Mayor Kim said each testing site averaged about 400 people. He said testing will continue until they’ve identified as many positive cases as they can.

Currently, gatherings are limited to 10 people or less on Hawaii Island, and police have been making sure people follow those rules.

On Saturday, Aug. 29, Mayor Kim said there were rumors of a possible large gathering and police shut it down,

“I think more than half a dozen police officers responded and took care of it, unfortunately none of us, especially police, want to revert to that kind of activities including eventually citing them,” Mayor Kim said.

He said he doesn’t want to push for a lockdown like Oahu’s because it will hurt small businesses and prevent people from exercising outdoors.

“If it’s necessary it will be done, but right now I feel that limiting the gatherings, getting enforcement up with those that do not, and constant communication with community members, including leaders,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll be more than successful.”

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