LIHU‘E — The state Department of Education extended spring break for public and charter schools through Monday, March 30 on Sunday as the number of presumed positive cases of COVID-19 rose to seven in Hawai‘i.
DOE officials, alongside Gov. David Ige, announced the extension at an O‘ahu press conference, saying the additional week of spring break will give DOE staff time to strategize next steps for Hawai‘i education amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Many schools across the nation have closed their doors, and others, including the University of Hawai‘i, have transitioned to online classes in order to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social-distancing guidance and attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Spring break was originally scheduled to run from today through Friday, March 20 for most public and charter schoos in Hawai‘i, and Thursday, March 26, is Prince Kuhio Day, which is a state and county holiday.
“We understand the impact this will have on our families,” said Dr. Christina Kishimoto, DOE superintendent.
”This was not an easy decision to make, but we take seriously our responsibility to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and the broader community while carrying out our educational mission,” she said.
“Public schools serve as hubs of care in our communities, from access to health care to providing free and reduced-price meals. We intend to restart school immediately once it is deemed safe to do so to reduce disruption to our school communities and provide consistency for our children.”
Ige also announced three more presumed positive cases of COVID-19 — two on O‘ahu and an Air Canada flight attendant on Maui — all of whom are now in self-quarantine.
“These cases are all travel-related,” Ige said. “We still don’t believe we have community spread.”
The first case is a resident of O‘ahu who traveled to Colorado from Feb. 29 to March 7. The person and that person’s family have been advised to stay home in self-quarantine, Ige said.
A child in the home has tested negative for COVID-19. The child’s preschool has been informed, but Ige said there is no risk to the other children. The child will not return to the preschool until the quarantine is over.
The second case involves a flight attendant on Maui. The attendant, believed to be a Canadian citizen, was exposed to a confirmed case in Germany on March 4. The person’s last flight was March 8, and the person began exhibiting symptoms the following day. Ige said risk to passengers on the attendant’s last flight is low. The attendant self-isolated at the Royal Lahaina Resort before being moved to an isolation unit at a Lahaina clinic.
The third case is another O‘ahu resident who returned from a trip to Florida with the entire family. This person is self-isolating in a bedroom with a dedicated private bath at their home. Other family members have been advised to remain in home quarantine away from the sick individual.
Mayor Derek Kawakami said Sunday the COVID-19 positive couple on Kaua‘i, visitors from Indiana, are both in stable condition and are still in isolation on the island.
Ige confirmed his administration is in conversation with the National Guard and aims to inform the public today about additional measures and potentials for activating the National Guard.
Closing the airports isn’t under Ige’s authority, the governor reminded the public on Sunday. That’s the federal government’s jurisdiction.
State Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson said Sunday they don’t believe shutting down the airports is the most effective course of action. Social distancing is what officials believe is going to help curb the spread.
The CDC modified its guidelines for public gatherings Sunday, recommending public gatherings be limited to 50 people or less. As of Sunday, County of Kaua‘i bans on public gatherings of more than 100 people on county property and postponements are still in effect, and other counties are starting to take more steps to encourage social distancing in the state.
Jessica Else, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.