DOH Director Bruce Anderson offered his condolences to the family of the man, who had been hospitalized recently with multiple medical issues.
“It’s not clear at this time what the exact cause of death was, but the individual did have a positive COVID-19 exposure,” Anderson said. “He was there (at the hospital) only for a short period of time before he passed away.”
The department would not provide further details about the person.
First Case Found In Community Surveillance
Of the latest 20 cases, 18 of them were in Honolulu County, and two others are still being investigated by the Department of Health.
Among the cases confirmed Tuesday was the first positive result the health department has found among its community surveillance testing, according to Anderson.
“We survey individuals randomly across the state — those who have flu-like illness where the flu has been ruled out,” he said. About 380 samples have been assessed. Since only one has tested positive for COVID-19, community transmission is not considered by the department to be widespread yet, he said.
Private and state laboratories have conducted and verified the results of more than 9,000 tests as of Tuesday, Anderson said. Among those, 224 have come back positive for the coronavirus. The rest were negative or inconclusive.
About half of the infections have been contracted abroad, health officials believe. Approximately 102 cases have been categorized as travel-related infections, and another 65 are still under investigation.
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is developing a plan that details how the state will ramp up its containment efforts if the virus continues to spread.
The agency has looked to how Washington and California have responded to COVID-19 as examples in developing the plan, Luke Myers, HIEMA administrator, told a panel of senators Tuesday.
While he didn’t provide specific details to the Senate committee, Myers said the HIEMA plan includes circumstances that would trigger a greater response from the state to slow down the virus as well as plans on how Hawaii will recover once it’s over.
The committee asked that those plans and timelines get communicated to the public so they know what to expect.
“If we keep getting informed by press conference, we’ll all get whiplash,” Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz told Myers.
The Senate is expected to hold a separate hearing to examine the plan once it is complete.
City Closes Private Golf Clubs
Meanwhile, at a separate press conference Tuesday, Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced private golf courses on Oahu will not be allowed to operate starting Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
Caldwell already ordered the closure of municipal golf courses on March 18 and later issued a broader “stay at home, work from home” order. Since March 23, Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said officers have issued 180 citations and arrested nine people for various violations, including being present in city parks.
Jenny Picciotto, a Kailua resident, had been concerned about potential COVID-19 spread at the nearby Mid-Pacific Country Club, which was hosting games of golf as recently as this past weekend. She applauded the mayor’s move to temporarily close them down.
“It sends the right message to the community that we’re all in this together and it also shows that they’re taking it seriously,” she said. “By having the private golf courses open, it was an opening to divisiveness between those who have and those who have not.”
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell