Cases Continue to Spike Statewide
By Catherine Cluett Pactol
Though many residents on Molokai have noted fellow community members appearing to have become nonchalant in the wearing of masks and social distancing, elsewhere in the state, new COVID-19 cases have reached an all-time record. Hawaii had its highest number of new cases on July 7 since the pandemic began, with 41 new cases that day. July 9 had 36 new cases reported.
“It is the highest we’ve had, and it is concerning,” said Gov. David Ige. “fHowever, as we re-opened our economy, we expected this. We are tracking this very closely and it is manageable right now. We have the ability to test people we need to test, and DOH has significantly increased the number of people available to trace the contacts of positive cases.”
State health officials say spikes in cases could continue as levels of activity increase within the state.
“Now more than ever it is critically important for everyone to wear a cloth face mask whenever outside of their home,” said DOH Director Dr. Bruce Anderson. “Many of the clusters we have been investigating are associated with situations where a mask has not been worn or physical distancing was not exercised. These are new infections that are not associated with known cases and investigations … We have an opportunity now to turn around these numbers before opening travel and safely resuming school and work. Let’s take this opportunity to all wear masks and do our part to prevent COVID-19.”
Hawaii residents have been living with restrictions for more than three months, and Ige said that commitment “has made Hawaii the national leader in controlling COVID-19.”
Daily numbers of visitors and returning residents entering Hawaii are tracked by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, however no numbers for interisland travel arriving and departing Molokai are readily available. The Molokai Dispatch is working to get those numbers released to share a better idea of how many residents, as well as visitors, are traveling through Molokai’s airport.
Ige and state leaders continue to consider pre-testing to allow mainland travelers to enter Hawaii without the 14-day quarantine, but across the country, many other states are also seeing all-time high spikes in cases. Ige said, “We will continue to make decisions based on the best available science and facts. We have not made any decisions yet and will let you know as soon as any changes are necessary.”
Meanwhile, Molokai residents along with the rest of Hawaii are suffering the economic affects of the pandemic. The state has reported that during the pandemic more than 200,000 residents lost their jobs and filed for unemployment. While the state was able to keep afloat by an infusion of more than $4 billion in federal funds, Ige said that money is drying up. The federal Payroll Protection Program that kept supported thousands of Hawaii businesses afloat started to run out at the end of June. Additionally, those who filed for unemployment who received an additional $600 per week from the federal government will no longer receive that bonus after July 31.
Along with economic uncertainty, public schools are preparing to open to students on Aug. 4, with many questions remaining about what the school year will look like. The Dept. of Education says learning will take place in the classroom as well as virtually online but the details of what that will actually look like for teachers, students and families remains to be announced.
The DOE said in a news release last week it is “committed to maintaining the standard 180 instructional days in the new school year while providing learning models that are developmentally appropriate to the needs of learners, adhere to health and safety guidelines, and consider the impact of COVID-19 in communities.”
All schools are preparing for the possibility of future school closures by increasing device accessibility to students, building teacher capacity for virtual engagement, and expanding course offerings for credits toward graduation, according to the DOE.