Hawaii Island on Saturday recorded the largest single-day total of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
The state Department of Health reported 43 of the new 133 statewide positive cases were on the Big Island in its Saturday noon report.
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said the majority of the cases were in West Hawaii, however, he could not provide exact numbers. He did, however, indicate a good portion of the spike in cases was tied to the University of the Nations cluster in Kailua-Kona.
“As far as University of the Nations, I have talked to them and I will talk to them again and we’re going to take a closer look as to what’s happening there to be sure precautions are being taken and will be continued to be taken because of these numbers that have occurred the past few days,” Kim said.
The mayor also said the county is going to take a good look there and be sure that it is not spread among the community.
“Because of the number of students that have recently come in, it needs to be investigated very thoroughly. Not only them, but other places as well,” he said. “We do not under any circumstances, should not allow any kind of situation to spread from that cluster and they should be well aware of all of the precautions they must take,” said Kim. “We will do an investigation in that area and other areas to pinpoint what is the sector and go from there.”
University of the Nations Kona (UofNK) spokesperson Johnny Gillespie said due to the swift contact tracing of their medical team, all additional exposed persons were immediately quarantined.
“We have since seen some positive COVID cases among that group of people, all of which have been in quarantine for 5 days at this point. These persons had already been reported as exposed to the DOH, and we are fully complying with DOH and medical advice to mitigate any further spread,” said Gillespie.
“It’s important to note that none of these cases are travel related. We had initially reported 4 travel-related cases, who were immediately isolated and any exposed persons quarantined,” he said. “There have been no additional COVID positive cases from the travel related point of origin. As ever the safety of our staff, students, and the Kona community continue to be our top priority.”
Kim said contact tracers on the island will be working with UofNK, but will take it a little step further and take a look at the whole situation.
“The count of 43 is very, very, very concerning for everybody,” Kim said. “I do want to say that the majority of cases in West Hawaii have been centered around the University of the Nations, and that is being reviewed, right now, on a case-by-case basis for contact tracing to see exactly what the situation is to do everything we can to prevent further spread.”
“All of us realizing how easy it is to be infected by it,” said Kim. “All of us must follow the rules of prevention. As more time goes by we are all learning, especially with people like the president and first lady and others showing constantly how easily one catches the virus.”
Kim stressed again that all residents to be aware of that and the policies of distancing, gathering numbers and face masks are crucial for us as a community to control it and stop the spread.
“I just got through talking to the Police Chief and re-emphasizing that we are enforcing it,”said Kim. “We will continue to do it. We have to emphasize it more. Officers carry masks in their vehicles and the main thing is education and asking people to comply with those rules.”
On Saturday afternoon, three Hawaii Police Department patrol cars were observed at UofNK enforcing the quarantine.
Kim also indicated an increase in the number of cases at Life Care Center Hilo, but could not provide numbers.
Because of concerns over the spike in cases, Kim arranged for Premier Medical to hold a drive-up COVID testing Saturday at the West Hawaii Civic Center. In all, 87 residents were tested and results are expected this week.
Hawaii Island has now seen 795 cases of the novel coronavirus since the end of February.
As of noon Saturday, 165 cases of the 795 cases on Hawaii Island were considered “active.” An active case is defined as an individual who has tested positive for the coronavirus and is being monitored by the Department of Health. Forty-two island residents have required hospitalization.
The Hawaii COVID-19 joint information center reported 133 new cases statewide. Eighty-seven were reported on Oahu with the remaining 43 on Hawaii Island.
In addition, 11 coronavirus-related deaths were reported on Oahu with eight of the deaths occurring between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15. Eight of the deaths were recently validated and classified as those records became available. COVID-19 deaths are officially reported as records are obtained, reviewed, validated, and the deaths are classified for state and national reporting.
Hawaii County Civil Defense reported no new deaths on Hawaii Island Friday. To date, 29 Hawaii Island residents, including 27 residents of the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home, have died from the novel coronavirus. The state has yet to confirm the last 14 deaths.