Two more people have died from the coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths in Hawaii to eight, the Hawaii Department of Health announced Friday.

One of the deaths was on Oahu. The other was on Maui. Health officials later described both as elderly but gave no other details.

The DOH also reported 22 new cases of COVID-19 Friday bringing the total number of cases in the islands to 464. Of those cases, 284 of those people have now been released from isolation.

COVID-19 Coronavirus screening / testing at Waianae Boat Harbor. Apirl 9, 2020.
The Department of Health reported two more deaths from the coronavirus on Friday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Oahu has 343 total cases, the majority of the COVID-19 cases in the state. Hawaii County has 31 cases, Kauai County, 19, and Maui County, 66.

The state has conducted over 17,000 tests for the virus, with about 2.7% of the tests coming back positive, according to DOH.

Of those positive cases, 42 have required hospitalization.

Three employees and a patient at the Maui Memorial Medical Center were among those that tested positive today, the hospital announced in a press release. On Wednesday, a cluster of 15 workers tested positive.

Those employees that tested positive are in good condition and remain in isolation, according to the press release.

DOH Director Bruce Anderson said during an afternoon press conference that the first case at Maui Memorial came from an employee who was sick but still came to work.

The clusters of infected workers were contained to two wards: the pediatric telemetry ward and the skilled nurses ward. The second is concerning, Anderson said, because it contains patients who have chronic health conditions and are at risk for catching the virus.

The state is investigating possible clusters of infected people on Maui including people who attended a church gathering and a motorcycle club, Anderson said.

While many churches have moved their services online, King’s Cathedral, a church on Maui, has been hosting drive-in sermons.

When asked about the services where churchgoers stay in their cars, Anderson said as long as they can maintain a 6-foot distance at all times, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Backtracking Testing Policy

Anderson said the state won’t be testing people who show no symptoms of COVID-19, contradicting a statement he made earlier this week that implied there would be tests for asymptomatic individuals.

All close contacts of COVID-19 patients should be in quarantine for 14 days. Testing asymptomatic contacts will not change or shorten their quarantine requirements,” Anderson said at the press conference Friday.

On Wednesday, Anderson said all close contacts of positive cases would be tested. Now, he’s saying they will only be tested in certain instances, such as if there were cases in a nursing home or hospital.

Also on Wednesday, the same day Anderson and Lt. Gov. Josh Green announced that testing would include asymptomatic people, the DOH sent letters to physicians statewide saying the department recommends only testing people that show symptoms of COVID-19.

Lt Governor Josh Green speaks during Coronavirus COVID19 press conference. April 8, 2020
Lt Gov. Josh Green and DOH Director Bruce Anderson announced Wednesday the state would expand testing, but that’s not happening. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

“Risk of transmission is thought to be greatest when patients are symptomatic since viral shedding is greatest at the time of symptom onset and declines over the course of several days to weeks,” the letter, signed by State Epidemiologist Sarah Park, says.

The letter goes on to acknowledge that people can still be infected by asymptomatic individuals. However, DOH recommends against expanding testing because of a shortage of testing kits and protective equipment.

Park has previously made the same argument against more testing to state legislators.

Hawaii doctors and the DOH clashed in late March over the decision to limit testing to individuals with symptoms.

Despite the DOH policy, Green said in a phone interview Friday afternoon that he still plans to push for more testing.

It doesn’t make any sense to pull up short and miss cases,” Green said.

Green said testing asymptomatic people that came into close contact with a positive case could get them to take self-isolating more seriously.

“We will slow the virus faster and save lives if we test all contacts, symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals,” Green said. “That’s the only way we will ever get control of it.”

Want more information on COVID-19 in Hawaii? You can read all of Civil Beat’s coronavirus coverage, find answers to frequently asked questions or sign up for email newsletter updates — all for free.

Help Power Local, Nonprofit News.

Across the nation and in Hawaii, news organizations are downsizing and closing their doors due to the ever-rising costs of keeping local journalism alive and well.

While Civil Beat has grown year over year, still only 1% of our readers are donors, and we need your help now more than ever.

Make a gift today of any amount, and your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,500, thanks to a generous group of Civil Beat donors.

About the Author