Hawaii health officials reported 437 new cases of COVID-19 statewide on Monday — the first daily count under 600 in the past four days.
The new cases included 293 on Oahu, 67 on Hawaii island, 52 on Maui, 16 on Kauai, four on Molokai and five residents diagnosed out of state, pushing the total since the pandemic began last year to 46,940.
One new death was reported, raising the total to 543.
The seven-day positivity rate rose to 7.3%. COVID-19 hospitalizations also have been climbing for more than a week. There are currently 219 people hospitalized with positive coronavirus cases across the state, which is an increase of 171 hospitalizations from one month ago.
Gov. David Ige said he already has asked for out-of-state assistance for hospitals. Due to the contagious nature of the delta variant, he said he also needs to reevaluate the 70% vaccination rate benchmark he initially set to lift all restrictions.
Ige said he has no plans to change Hawaii’s Safe Travels program, which requires people to prove vaccination status, receive a negative COVID-19 test or quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in the islands.
Instead, he is considering reimposing limits on the sizes of social gatherings, which had been lifted amid a declining case count before the latest surge began last month.
“We need to take further action to restrict interaction,” Ige said during the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight” program. He didn’t provide details but said an announcement could come later this week.
Nearly 61% of the state population is fully vaccinated. And Oahu is currently in Tier 5 of its reopening strategy, which includes indoor gathering capacity of 25 and outdoor gathering capacity of 75.
Dr. Tim Brown, a senior fellow who directs a team of epidemiologists and programmers for the research program at the East-West Center, criticized local politicians for not taking a “public health stance.”
“We are in a rapid exponential rise,” he said during a livestream with East West Center on Thursday. “To not impose mitigation measurements at this time is the height of idiocy.”
The Hawaii Department of Health, meanwhile, identified a COVID-19 cluster associated with Tahiti Nui restaurant in Hanalei on Kauai, including both restaurant workers and diners.
So far, seven people have confirmed cases and people who visited the restaurant from July 30 through Wednesday may have had exposure to a person with confirmed COVID-19 infection and should get tested.
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Lauren Teruya was a Poynter-Koch reporting fellow for Honolulu Civil Beat. She is a graduate of Iolani School and holds a master's degree in specialized journalism from the University of Southern California.