Another COVID-19 death in Hawaii brings this week’s death total to 7 statewide. 248 new infections bring the state’s total to 6,000 since the start of the pandemic, and numbers are rising rapidly. The spike in cases in a relatively isolated state sparks concerns as officials close beaches and gathering places in an attempt to slow the virus spread.’
The history of COVID-19 in Hawaii
Up until recently, the spread of coronavirus in Hawaii has remained slow, in part due to action take before cases were even discovered. On March 5th, Hawaii’s Governor David Ige released a proclamation that readied the state financially to handle any cases, and to offer testing to residents. On March 6th, the first presumptive positive case was discovered in a resident who likely contracted the virus while on a cruise ship. On March 26th, a mandatory 14-day quarantine was announced for all visitors to the state and those traveling out of state and returning. Cases were slow to rise at first, and when Ige declared a lock-down extending from March 20th to April 30th, only about 70 cases were reported across all islands in the state. The quarantine for travelers and lock-down procedures seemed to work; cases remained low and spread was slow. Even when the lock-down expired, cases rose but at a snail’s pace.
A surprising source for case spikes
However, with summer comes tourism and busy beaches in Hawaii. Residents were eager to return to life as usual, and the state’s slow spread of the virus caused people to lower their guard. This led to a spike in cases from a surprising source; funerals. While social distancing and preventative measures were respected in many social gatherings, one place where people tend to relax their guard and spend more time close to one another is funerals. Officials announced in early August that they were able to contract trace a whopping 71 cases to funerals in July.
From under control to thousands of cases
By late July, the needle was beginning to move in Hawaii and not in the right direction. As of August 1st, the entire total of the state’s infected cases was approximately 2,200, from March 6th when the first case was reported. However, by the end of August, cases spiked dramatically and as of August 23rd, 6,600 cases were reported total. Early in August, in an attempt to safeguard children and educators and slow the spike of virus cases, officials announced that Hawaii schools would re-open as scheduled on August 17th, but with a twist; they would all be virtual to begin with. At least the first four weeks will remain in a remote-learning fashion, to be reassessed in September. However, numbers continue to rise alarmingly.
Current state of cases across all islands
Local news source Hawaii News Now reports the status of all islands in the state:
- Total cases: 6,031
- Released from isolation: 1,784
- Required hospitalization: 350
- Deaths: 39
- Total cases: 290 (includes 3 on Molokai)
- Released from isolation: 167
- Required hospitalization: 36
- Deaths: 7
- Total cases: 56
- Released from isolation: 51
- Required hospitalization: 1
- Deaths: 0
- Total cases: 200
- Released from isolation: 141
- Required hospitalization: 7
- Deaths: 0
- Hawaii residents diagnosed out-of-state: 23
- Hawaii residents who have died out-of-state: 1
- Pending assignment to county: 0
What do health officials in Hawaii recommend?
According to the Hawaii State Department of Health, this is what officials recommend (with links from site):
Preventative health care:
- Officials recommend keeping appointments where possible and seeing if tele-health services can be accessed. Preventative healthcare should continue as much as possible to avoid exacerbating underlying health conditions that could worsen and/or increase risk factors for COVID-19.
Everyday prevention habits:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds with this protective routine.
- Disinfect mobile devices and keyboards regularly. They’re like a third hand!
- Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer for situations when soap and water are unavailable.
- Shaka instead of handshake.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands or after touching surfaces.
- Cover cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw away. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into a bent elbow.
- Cloth face coverings are important to wear in public, and should be used with physical distancing to slow the spread of the virus. There are exceptions for young children or anyone who has trouble breathing.
- Stay home when you feel sick.
- Clean frequently-touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, faucets and light-switches, with disinfectants.
- Vaccinate against the flu.
- Maintain a distance of 6+ ft , or two-arms’ length, from others to prevent germs from spreading.
- Avoid sharing drinks, food utensils and e-cigarettes with others.
- Use a tissue or elbow to touch doorknobs, handrails, elevator buttons and crosswalk buttons.
- Secure an extra 30-days worth of prescription medications, if possible, and basic medications, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
- Buy a few extra shelf-stable foods, such as beans and grains, each time you shop. Please avoid hoarding so we have enough inventory for all residents.
- Freeze and preserve meats, vegetables and bread so you have enough to last 14 days.
- Store backup toothpaste, laundry detergent, bath tissue and cleaning supplies, but no more than 14 days’ supply to ensure our islands have enough for each household.
Plan for contingencies:
Prepare backup plans in the event that:
- Your child’s school or daycare has extended closures. See childcare.
- You’re caring for a sick family member while trying not to infect yourself. See kupuna care.
- Your office closes temporarily. See workplace recommendations.
- You’re unable to visit friends, family and neighbors that are most vulnerable to illness. Phone regularly to inquire about their health and help by delivering groceries, supplies or arranging healthcare support, if needed.
Create a household plan of action:
- Identify members of your household that may be at greater risk, such as older adults and people with severe chronic illnesses.
- Speak with your neighbors about their plan and ways you can support one another.
- Assemble your contact list of phone numbers for family, friends, neighbors, healthcare providers, teachers, employers, your local public health department and other local agencies you might need to reach in the event of emergency.
- Designate a room in your house that can be used for isolation, in the event someone becomes sick. Learn More.
Support emotional wellness:
The outbreak of COVID-19 can cause stress. These tips from the CDC may help manage fear and anxiety you or your loved ones might be feeling.
How you can support yourself, from the CDC:
- Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19.
- Take care of your body. Breath deeply, stretch or meditate. Eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings fade. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Do activities you enjoy to return to your normal life.
- Connect with others. Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships.
- Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking.
- Share the facts about COVID-19 and the actual risk to others.
What will happen over the next few weeks?
With cases on the rise in Hawaii and no signs of abating, the Lt. Governor Josh Green has struck an optimistic tone, but officials remain worried about the sudden rise in cases. It’s been over two weeks since lock-down measures were re-implemented to prevent social gatherings, and case numbers have not reflected a dip that would suggest the measures are working. Hopefully numbers will begin to level out and decline soon, but only time will tell. It’s more vital than ever that residents follow recommendations from health experts and local officials who have provided information on preventative measures.