Four new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed by health officials on Wednesday.

Three of the cases were from Oahu and a fourth was a Hawaii resident diagnosed out of state.

Of the 613 people in Hawaii verified to be infected with the virus to date, 516 of them have recovered to be released from isolation.

“Before the governor imposed social distancing and shut down measures, we had about 20 cases per day,” said Edward Desmond, State Laboratories Administrator for the Department of Health. “Now we’re in the single digits per day, so we’ve had some successful control measures.”

Masked and standing in line waiting to get into Longs Drugs in Moiliili during COVID-19 pandemic. April 28, 2020

Some restrictions on businesses will be lifted in phases, Gov. David Ige said Wednesday. The state’s stay-at-home order is in effect until May 31.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Half of the cases to date have been travel-associated. Aside from 57 infections that are still under investigation by the health department, the remainder of infections are community-associated.

“With Hawaii’s low rate of infection, we are looking to ease restrictions and will start to reopen our local economy,” Gov. David Ige said in a press conference Wednesday. “However, this will be done in a phased approach, based on health data, science, and guidance from our health care advisors.”

Ige and county mayors will work together as they make decisions.

Diagnostic testing by private laboratories for COVID-19 has improved in efficiency in recent weeks. The five laboratories across the state that collect and process specimens from Hawaii patients can now produce results within 24 hours. In the past, it could take nearly two weeks.

The laboratories can now process more tests per day than they are receiving, said Desmond.

No new hospitalizations were reported on Wednesday. Sixty-nine people remain hospitalized across the state, including 53 on Oahu, 14 on Maui, and one patient each on the Big Island and Kauai.

A cluster of infections that began at Maui Memorial Medical Center involve 38 staff and 20 patients who are being monitored by DOH, officials said. A new infection of a health worker possibly involved in the cluster of infections was reported Monday by another worker at MMMC, according to Hawaii News Now.

More than 300 people have been tested in relation to the Maui investigation. 

Maui’s documented COVID-19 patient count remained at 115 to date, with three new recoveries reported on Wednesday. Eighty-three people on Maui have recovered to date. 

There have been more community-associated COVID-19 infections during the month of April than there were in March, according to DOH statistics.

Department of Health

Fifty-three of the 70 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 on Hawaii Island to date have recovered.

On Wednesday, Honolulu County logged three new coronavirus cases and six new recoveries. Of the 399 people diagnosed on Oahu to date, 360 have recovered and been released from isolation, the department reports.

Only one active case of COVID-19 is being monitored on Kauai, where 21 infections have been verified to date, but 20 people have qualified to be released from isolation. Kauai has gone more than two weeks without a new case of the coronavirus. 

People qualify to be released from isolation once they complete a 14-day quarantine and at least a week has passed since their symptoms began and three days have gone by without a fever, according to federal guidelines.

Sixteen people have died in Hawaii to date, including 11 on Oahu and five on Maui.

“This is the lowest mortality rate in the United States,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Wednesday at a press conference.

Testing And Treatment

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shared some encouraging news on Wednesday when it announced that an experimental drug showed promise for future treatment of the COVID-19 disease.

The government-funded placebo-controlled trial included nearly 400 patients.

The antiviral drug is called remdesivir and is being developed by Gilead Sciences, which is running larger ongoing patient trials across the globe.

Clinical Labs of Hawaii announced Wednesday it will start this week to conduct antibody testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in addition to its current molecular testing.

The serology tests, approved by an FDA Emergency Use Authorization, are designed to detect IgG antibodies among patients who have been exposed to the virus.

“Results from antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis to diagnose or exclude SARs-CoV-2 infection or to inform infection status or immunity. Follow-up, concurrent or alternative testing with molecular diagnostic testing should be considered for patient management if clinically indicated,” said Jerry Hussong, CEO of Sonic Healthcare USA, the parent company of Clinical Laboratories of Hawaii.

Collectively, the laboratories in Hawaii have the capability to conduct 3,000 tests per day. They currently process anywhere from 400 to 1,000 per day.

Testing for antibodies could be useful for identifying patients that could donate plasma for others’ treatment, Desmond said, but scientific research about serological testing is still underway. This week, researchers found that those with antibodies can still be infectious.

This is an ongoing story. Please check www.civilbeat.org for updates. 

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