Only four new cases of COVID-19 were reported Monday in Hawaii — the lowest number of cases reported in a single day since Feb. 28.
Meanwhile, Gov. David Ige said Hawaii’s stay-at-home order will probably be extended past April 30 because the islands aren’t yet ready to relax restrictions put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Ige said he understood the frustration of some in the community who want restrictions lifted, acknowledging Hawaii went from having one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates to the highest within a few weeks as the tourism industry shut down. He said the government wants to restore normalcy when conditions are right.
“We are looking for the path forward based on science and data that can assure the public safety as we look at this evolving situation of COVID-19,” Ige said during the state’s daily COVID-19 briefing streamed online. His administration will be releasing criteria for doing so in the next few days.
Two of four cases reported Monday were from Hawaii Island, bringing Hawaii County’s total to 64, according to the Department of Health. No deaths have been reported, just one person has been hospitalized and 38 of the people have recovered and been released from isolation.
None of the Big Island cases announced Monday were associated with a cluster of cases tied to three McDonald’s locations in Kailua-Kona, which went unchanged at 30.
Outside Hawaii County, two cases were reported on Maui, bringing the statewide number of people testing positive for COVID-19 to 584. Of those cases, 423 have been released from isolation, 55 have required hospitalization and 10 people have died.
The largest number of cases in state is in the City and County of Honolulu, with 385. Maui County has the second highest number with 108, and Kauai County, which is under the strictest lockdown status has the lowest number of cases, with 21.
Six Hawaii residents were diagnosed while out of state, but the cases are counted as Hawaii cases, per U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
Bruce Anderson, the director of the state Department of Health, said the state needs to make sure that it has the situation under control for a sustained period of time before relaxing controls and reopening the state.
Hawaii will also need to have the infrastructure in place to quickly identify cases and close contacts as well as quarantine people quickly so the virus doesn’t spread, Anderson said.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a West Hawaii emergency room physician, noted the state had news of two significant clusters just last week, one at Maui Memorial Medical Center and another centered around three McDonald’s restaurants in Kona.
“It really boils down to how safe we are from significant spread,” Green said. “There’s discussion obviously with how careful we are going to have to be with our travelers coming to Hawaii. But we defer those conversations into the future because we don’t actually don’t know yet that we’ve completely stamped out this virus.”
In related news, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations “over the weekend set up a large processing center to help increase the state’s capacity to handle unemployment claims.”
The processing center features 150 work stations and is located at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. It will be staffed by volunteers, Ige said.
“We anticipate several hundred volunteers at the center starting this week,” he said.
Further, Ige said more than 11,000 Hawaii small businesses will receive assistance from the Payroll Protection Program of the CARES Act approved by the Congress and President Donald Trump.
Those businesses, which Ige said employ approximately 170,000 employees across the state, will receive $2.2 billion in forgivable loans.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.