Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says Oahu surge testing successful; more than 60K tested in 2 weeks

September 15, 2020

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell declared Oahu’s mass surge testing effort a success, with more than 60,000 people tested for COVID-19 over the past 14 days.

The state Department of Health said 267 of the 45,343 tests as of Monday, the last day of testing, were positive, or less than 1%.

“This reinforces the position that, although COVID is widespread on Oahu, it is not out of control,” Health Director Bruce Anderson said in an email. “The number of positive cases identified through case reporting, investigation and contact tracing is also decreasing, which is also reassuring. It points to … the effectiveness of the recent stay-at-home order by Mayor Caldwell, the 14-day quarantine and other mitigation measures.”

The broad surveillance program, which was free for anyone wanting a test, whether or not they had coronavirus symptoms, found there is still a lot of spread in the Pacific Island and Filipino communities, the mayor said Monday at a news conference at Honolulu Hale. The city offered the free surge testing as part of a partnership with state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Surgeon General.

“While we know there’s community spread and we know it’s in certain areas, it’s not everywhere,” Caldwell said. “It gives me hope we can continue to manage the number of cases so we never, ever … have to do another lockdown.”

The virus is also being spread in businesses’ lunchrooms, which is why the city will probably not allow lunchrooms to open along with business reopenings, he said.

“That’s how we’re going to use this information and be more strategic in what we focus our energy,” he added. “We’ll continue to test probably in a little bit more strategic way — going into communities of need, going into places where there are Pacific Islanders and others where we know the virus is more present — so we can find out where it is and work on contact tracing and isolating those.”

The city has nearly 30,000 more free tests it acquired from the federal government to do additional testing through November in target areas with high-risk populations.

Health officials reported 80 new infections statewide, representing 3.4% of the 2,376 total in the daily tally, bringing the state’s cases since the beginning of the pandemic to 10,779.

No new deaths were reported Monday, leaving the official statewide death toll at 99. The DOH, however, has yet to count the latest reported coronavirus deaths on Hawaii island linked to the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home, where 10 residents have died following an outbreak involving 68 residents and 30 employees so far. Hilo Medical Center reported one death Monday related to the veterans home, and 13 total COVID-19 fatalities. Health officials said the Hilo fatalities are pending verification of the cause of death.

The U.S. coronavirus death toll has surpassed 194,000.

There are 6,987 infections considered active statewide, with 3,693 patients now classified as released from isolation, or about 34% of those infected. Of the 261,907 coronavirus tests conducted so far by state and clinical laboratories since the start of the outbreak, 4.1% have been positive.

The mayor extended Oahu’s stay-at-home, work-from-home order last week through Sept. 23 but opened parks, beaches and hiking trails for solo activities.

The Honolulu Police Department issued 5,000 citations for violations of the order this past weekend, he said.

“For the most part I’m very grateful what folks have been doing to comply with the orders that sometimes don’t make sense, but it’s all about enforcement and all about trying to manage the spread,” Caldwell said.

“I know it’s extremely frustrating for everybody,” he said, adding that he plans to keep the order in place despite requests to loosen restrictions. Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who tested positive for the virus Friday, asked the mayor to allow households to engage in outdoor activities together instead of just allowing solo activities.

The mayor said the city plans to allow gatherings of five at parks, trails and beaches when the order is lifted next week.

“We’re not going to be rushing to a reopening like we did the first time,” Caldwell said. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, this is not a race to the finish line; it’s a marathon. It’s to manage the number of cases and to make sure at no given time do we see such a spike that we lose control in our ability to contact- trace and isolate, and so we’re going to be much more cautious than we did the first time.”

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