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More Restrictions to Come If Cases Keep Rising

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

With COVID-19 cases soaring in the triple digits statewide, school opening has been delayed, tight restrictions are again being placed on gatherings, and officials warn if case numbers don’t get under control soon, further drastic steps may need to be taken again to curb the virus’ spread.

Last Friday, July 31, marked the third day in a row of more than 100 cases in the state. Last weekend saw lower numbers but health officials say those lags likely represented delays in lab reporting resulting in incomplete data. July 30’s 124 cases included 32 pediatric cases in children ages 18 and under, while 18 of the 123 new cases reported for July 31 were children (individual ages not reported).

Hawaii’s total COVID-19 cases have exceeded 2,000. Lt. Gov. Josh Green and other health officials warn that a continued daily triple-digit uptick could send the state into a further economic and health crisis by next month.

“At this current trajectory we’ll have 5,000 cases by Sept. 1,” Green the Star Advertiser, estimating at the current rate of infection, hospitals will soon reach capacity.

The Star Advertiser reported Sunday that Green projects 90 more coronavirus patients will be hospitalized in the coming few weeks, and at the current rate of increase, about 11 percent of an estimated 3,000 new cases in the next month would be severe enough to require hospitalization.

Gov. Ige has closed bars on Oahu for the next three weeks, and Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino updated Public Health Emergency Rules to limit indoor and outdoor social gatherings to no more than 10 people, effective July 31.

Lt. Gov. Green called that “a modest effort” to control the outbreak.

“If we don’t get it under control, there will certainly be statewide calls for closures and for a shutdown,” Green told the Star Advertiser. “The alternative is a gigantic surge that could very well overwhelm several of our hospitals.”

Cases on Molokai remain at two.

Some community members have reported on social media what they believe to be violations of the mandated 14-day quarantine by visitors coming from the mainland. The Maui Police Dept. says it continues to enforce state and county rules, including the quarantine. It asks residents to report a suspected quarantine violation by emailing MPDquarantine@mpd.net and reports will be investigated.

The Dept. of Education has announced a delay in school opening from the previously anticipated Aug. 4, to Aug. 17.

Teachers returned to work July 29. The additional training days will include HIDOE-mandated training topics on health and safety, and instructional and student support.

“This issue has divided our community amid these uncertain times,” said Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto. “There are no perfect answers. We acknowledge this move effectively delays student instruction, and we are fully committed to preparing our schools to safely welcome students back on Aug. 17. I thank our families for their understanding as well as our principals for their tremendous work in coordinating the readiness of their schools.”

Some families are considering homeschooling their children as an alternative to public school education this year. Molokai County Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who homeschooled her own children in the past, held a live discussion of the option with two fellow Molokai mothers who homeschool, answering questions from interested families.

Meanwhile, Hawaii officials asked for all residents’ help in keeping the state safe.

“We are all responsible for each other,” said Gov. David Ige. “Public health officials and all the available data say the best defense against COVID-19 is still taking personal responsibility. We cannot become complacent. Stay six feet apart, wear your mask, wash your hands, avoid large gatherings, stay home if you’re sick, and keep your kids home if they’re sick. We can beat this if we all work together.”

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