Officials hopeful holiday surge is over, Maui asks for modifications to current rules after spike in cases

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The State Department of Health has reported triple-digit case numbers for one week straight.

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The last time that happened was during the summer surge at the end of August.

On January 7, the state reported its highest COVID-19 daily case number since the summer surge with 322 cases. Throughout the week, the case numbers slowly dropped.

The state typically reports lower case numbers on Mondays due to lack of weekend testing, however on Monday, Jan. 11, there were 172 new cases reported.

“I do think we’re settling down now after the gatherings that happened over New Years,” said Lieutenant Governor Dr. Josh Green. “So, we’ll be okay. We have 108 cases on Oahu, I am worried about the Big Island and Maui.”

Maui continues to report double digit case numbers after a cluster broke out at the Harbor Lights Condominium Complex in Kahului in December. To date, there have been 97 cases reported in the county.

Maui District Health officer Dr. Lorrin Pang reported on Monday that other cases were from bars, close contacts or travel-related incidents.

Maui County Managing Director Sandy Baz said that between Jan. 3 and Jan. 10, 80 percent of Maui County’s cases were residents with no travel history, 18 percent of cases were travel related from residents and two percent were travel-related from visitors.

In a press conference on Monday, Baz said Department of Health investigators linked cases to holiday social gatherings.

“We anticipated some cases would come up, and we hope with that past us, they will level off soon,” Baz said.

On Friday, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino sent a request to Governor David Ige to modify some of Maui County’s existing rules.

Baz said he found closing businesses would not solve the problem of community spread after conferring with Hawaii Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char and that DOH data shows there are no hot spots or clusters coming from any resort areas on Maui.

Maui County has requested the following changes from Governor Ige:

  • Restrict large facilities (Costco, Target and Walmart) to 30 percent of its capacity.
  • Restrict smaller retail businesses to 50 percent of its capacity.
  • Essential worker exemptions (who stay longer than 24 hours) must take a pre-test.
  • Anyone coming into Maui County must download the Aloha Safe Alert App for contact tracing purposes.

Victorino said if numbers don’t come down by the end of January, he will consider reinstating a “safer-at-home” order. He said he hopes to hear if Governor Ige will approve or deny his requests by Tuesday.

Lt. Gov Green said Oahu and Big Island clusters were mostly from small holiday gatherings and noted how difficult it is to stop community transmission once it starts, but he’s hopeful numbers will start to decrease in the coming weeks.

“I think New Year’s looked a lot like the Fourth of July. Although, we have learned some lessons since then. There were more people were wearing masks and people are cognizant of social distancing, but there were parties and some were indoors,” Green said.

With 2,268 current active cases, Green says he anticipates hospital numbers to go up slightly.

As of Monday, there were 106 people in the hospital with COVID-19. He said the peak of hospitalizations was in August when there were 318 people in the hospital.

“We have more than enough rooms and ventilators, but the staff will over-time (and) become fatigued if the numbers go up,” he said. “So, we’re talking about whether or not we have to bring in some support staff.”

He and other officials will be closely monitoring case numbers over the next few days.

“I’m hopeful that we’re getting back down towards our 90 to 100 cases baseline. That’s what we have to do,” Green said.

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