Last week, Hawai‘i had a record high COVID-19 case counts three days in a row. In July, there have been over 800 new cases, nearly doubling the number of cases in Hawai‘i in a single month. Hawai‘i is fortunate that our healthcare system has been able to manage the new cases, but it is concerning that the spike in cases is occurring without trans-pacific travel or school in session.

Currently, Hawai‘i public schools are scheduled to open next week. The Department of Education has published a Return to Learn: School Reopening Plan, and in partnership with the Department of Health, released informational materials on basics of contact tracingelementary school ‘ohana bubblemiddle and high school cohorts, and school procedural flowchart for positive cases. Many teachers and parents have expressed concern that it’s too soon to reopen the schools, while others cite the importance of classroom time for students’ development and education. The Board of Education is set to meet on Thursday, July 30 via Webex to address requests to delay the reopening of schools.

You can watch last week’s Public Health Action Webinar with Hawai‘i Green Growth on their Aloha+ Challenge, which provides a framework to build a more equitable and resilient future, and shares results from their statewide economic recovery survey on new employment opportunities that support food security, clean energy, ecosystem health, and community well-being. We are still working on our next Public Health Action webinar and will send registration information in a future email.

STATE UPDATES
Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) provides food-purchasing assistance to students eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch. All eligible students should have received their P-EBT cards via mail by July 20. Translated flyers are available on Hawai‘i Appleseed’s website. Stretch your P-EBT dollars further on locally-grown fruits and vegetables with DA BUX program – find the nearest participating retailer here.

COUNTY UPDATES
Hawai‘i County
 Mayor Harry Kim clarified in his latest rule that face coverings are required in most circumstances while in public, and businesses can refuse entry or service a person does not wear a face covering. It also spells out certain instances such as health conditions in which face coverings are not required.

Maui County residents can apply for financial assistance to pay for essential needs due to a layoff, reduction in hours or loss of income related to COVID-19 through the Hawaiʻi Emergency Laulima Partnership program or H.E.L.P.

Assistance may be used for food, personal hygiene, medicine, rent, mortgage, utility payments, phone or internet service, car payments and other essential needs. Click here to learn more and apply online.

City and County of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell updated the county rule that requires everyone to wear face coverings at gyms, even while exercising.

Kaua‘i County Mayor Derek Kawakami amended and updated several emergency rules in light of the increasing number of cases statewide. They include:

  • Requiring that all persons age five and older wear face coverings, both indoors and outdoors and whenever they are with anyone not in their immediate household, with limited exceptions.
  • Indoor gatherings are now limited to a maximum of 10 people. Outdoor gatherings remain at a maximum limit of 100 people.
  • Transient vacation rentals or homestays may be designated as a quarantine location for a new resident more than once in any six month period. This closes the loophole that some visitors are using in an attempt to avoid quarantining at a hotel, as currently required.

HAWAI‘I VOTES BY MAIL

Hawaii’s Primary Election is on August 8, but you don’t need to wait until election day to vote! This is Hawaii’s first year of all-mail voting, and registered voters should have received their ballot in the mail. If you’re not registered to vote yet, you can still participate in the elections by visiting a voter service center. Learn more at the Office of Elections website.

HAWAI‘I PUBLIC HEALTH INSTITUTE CANDIDATE SURVEY

Elected officials have a pivotal role in shaping the policies that influence health and well-being in Hawai‘i. HIPHI conducted a candidate survey to help voters know where candidates stand on public health issues facing our community. View candidates’ responses on topics including COVID-19 response and recovery, healthy eating and active living policies, economic justice, oral health, and regulations on tobacco, alcohol and marijuana.

HIPHI is a non-partisan organization that neither supports nor opposes any political party or candidate for office. The survey results are for informational purposes only.

PUBLIC HEALTH TIP OF THE WEEK

Although older adults and those with underlying medical conditions are most at risk for severe cases of COVID-19, people of all ages can catch the virus. Even if you are not considered a “high-risk” population, you should still take adequate precautions to prevent yourself from getting sick or passing it to others in our community. The CDC found that COVID-19 can result in prolonged illness, even among young adults without underlying chronic medical conditions.

BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING ON SCHOOL REOPENINGS
The Hawai‘i State Board of Education (BOE) has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday, July 30 at 1 PM, to take action on a number of scenarios that would give educators more time to prepare before students return to class during the pandemic. The meeting will be broadcast live via Webex, and both written and oral testimony will be accepted. Visit the Board of Education website for more information on the meeting and how to submit testimony.

POSSIBLE COVID-19 EXPOSURE AT TWO O‘AHU BARS
The Department of Health (DOH) is advising anyone who may have patronized Brix & Bones (1217 Hopaka St.) and Arena 808 (1020 Keeaumoku St.) between July 16-26 to contact their physician about potential COVID-19 exposure. Up to 12 cases are potentially associated with these clusters and as a result, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is considering closing bars in his next emergency order. DOH is reminding people to avoid being in large groups, especially without masks and physical distancing.

CONTACT TRACING FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
With the increasing number of cases in Hawai‘i, contact tracing is more important than ever to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community. The Department of Health has created a webpage on contact tracing with information on how contact tracing works, what to expect in a contact tracing call and answers to frequently asked questions.

DO YOU HAVE RESOURCES OR INFORMATION ON COVID-19 TO SHARE?
If you have any resources or updates we should include in our next weekly email or website, feel free to contact us at covidresponse@hiphi.org.