UPDATE, 2:30 P.M.
The Department of Health is hosting a live press conference to discuss the state’s increase in coronavirus cases.
Watch the video above.
A spike in coronavirus infections in Hawaii is continuing with 27 new confirmed cases today — the highest daily case count since April 4.
The Health Department’s daily new case count has not been this high since April 4, when officials reported 32 cases. The new cases reported daily has never been over 34 in Hawaii.
Today’s cases include 25 on Oahu, one on Maui and one on Kauai — the Garden Isle’s first new case in over two months.
The count follows 18 confirmed cases Thursday. Officials earlier said a spike was expected, but that would not delay the reopening of the local economy or interfere with planning to restart Hawaii tourism.
Hawaii’s daily COVID-19 case count brings the statewide tally to 789 cases since the start of the outbreak in February. The state’s count of new cases so far in June already has more than tripled the total of new cases recorded in May.
Most of the new infections are associated with clusters in large families living in crowded conditions, adult care and long-term nursing facilities and a church group in Waipahu that gathered in a home, health officials said. Lt. Gov. Josh Green wrote on Instagram that at least 35 cases may be associated with one church.
“This is of great concern. It’s a reflection of the recent heartfelt protests and less social distancing because we’ve opened up our kamaaina economy, including restaurants,” Green told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “But things will settle down. This is the time we need to remember everyone should be wearing masks. This surge makes it more clear than ever that when we open tourism from the mainland to Hawaii, we’re going to have to require a pretest before their travel. This is what’s happening all across the world and it will decrease our number of cases very significantly.”
State Epidemiologist Sarah Park said there is no evidence that recent protests have contributed to the recent spike in infections, but strongly encourages continued social distancing and the use of face masks.
“These clusters really emphasize our call for the continuation of safe practices, including physical distancing, using face coverings, frequent hand washing, and staying home and away from others when sick,” she said. “Virtually all of the newly reported cases of COVID-19 are due to community-spread — often from a group setting.”
Health director Bruce Anderson added that the DOH “fully anticipated an increase in COVID-19 cases” associated with more community activity and the reopening of businesses.
“This is the critical time, with this week’s resumption of interisland travel and the re-opening of other air travel at some point in the future, for all of us to act with care, to protect our loved ones, particularly our kupuna, and to continue physical distancing, face masks, and all of the safe practices that have now become our new norm … at least for now,” he said.
Government lockdowns, which included the collapse of tourism, helped Hawaii achieve low COVID-19 infections and deaths. However, they’ve come at great cost to the local economy, which has seen unemployment claims rise above 230,000 since March 1. A mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for arriving passengers that began March 26 exacerbated the economic downturn, essentially halting out-of-state tourism.
The quarantine for interisland passengers was lifted Tuesday, but that’s expected to bring only a slight boost to the economy. State officials are still working out a plan to allow out-of-state visitors to bypass the quarantine, which has been extended through at least July 31.
Hawaii could continue to see new cases over the next two weeks related to a growing outbreak reported Wednesday at the state’s largest nursing home, Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. At least a dozen cases have been confirmed as of Thursday.
Outbreaks are continuing to occur in different parts of the world and “Hawaii is going to have to protect itself,” with pre-travel testing, temperature and thermal screening and other preventive measures, Green said.
“We have to use all of the different devices at our disposal, but testing will decrease by more than 50% the number of COVID-19-positive travelers that could normally come and that is a game-changer,” he said. “We also need to remember that residents who travel to the mainland will need to be screened upon their return to Hawaii.”
As of today, 130 infections in Hawaii are active cases with a total of 642 patients now classified by health officials as “released from isolation” since the start of the outbreak in February. Two new release cases on Oahu were reported today. The category counts those infected people who have met the criteria for being released from isolation.
About 81% of the Hawaii people who have been infected are now classified as released from isolation.
By county, Honolulu has seen 428 patients released from isolation, and Maui has had 113 patients released. The Big Island has two active infections, while Kauai has one new case, an adult male resident who received a positive test result Thursday.
The state’s coronavirus death toll remains unchanged at 17. Eleven of the deaths have been on Oahu and six on Maui.
Today’s statewide coronavirus cases total includes 551 on Oahu, 121 in Maui County, 83 on Hawaii island, and 22 in Kauai County, according to health officials. The total also includes 12 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state.
Of all the confirmed Hawaii cases since the start of the outbreak, 96 have required hospitalizations, with one new hospitalization on Oahu reported today, health officials said.
One hospitalization in the statewide count is a Hawaii resident who was diagnosed and treated outside the state, officials said. Of the 95 hospitalizations in the state, 70 have been on Oahu, 22 on Maui, and one for Kauai.
Of the more than 66,734 coronavirus tests conducted so far by state and clinical laboratories in Hawaii, about 1.2% have been positive. Health officials counted 990 new test results in today’s tally.