State health officials are not surprised by the spike in COVID-19 cases over the past two days, saying they are seeing what they expected to see.
With 27 new confirmed cases, the state now sits at 789. During a press conference with the Hawai‘i Department of Health on Friday, DOH Director Bruce Anderson said there is no reason to recommend pausing the plan to reopen Hawaii at this point.
“Despite our recent spike in cases, all of our testing and contact tracing procedures are working exactly as intended,” Anderson said. “Additional cases are being identified and added to the case count as a result of aggressive investigations, contact tracing and testing of household contacts.”
The majority of new cases reported over the past week are associated with community clusters in large households with crowded conditions, adult care and long-term nursing facilities, and with a faith-based group gathering at a home.
“This is a serious reminder that we all need to avoid gathering where physical distancing is not occurring,” Anderson said regarding the recent clusters. “Moving forward, our lifestyle choices will affect everyone in the state. I urge everyone to pay attention to physical distancing and other basic hygiene requirements.”
Some of the cases were identified through outreach activities with the DOH and its collaboration with Hawai‘i Public Housing Authority. Staff from both entities have been educating communities and canvassing homes to share information.
“They’ve gone door-to-door to engage literally hundreds of families, distribute masks and hand sanitizer and work with families with positive cases,” Anderson said.
With larger families living in a small home, Anderson said transmission of the disease is practically unavoidable. However, in situations where families can’t self-isolate, the DOH assists in providing a quarantine site.
“Right now we’re able to do contact tracing on all the positive cases in a timely manner that’s why we’re identifying these cases because we’re out there looking,” Anderson said.
Hawai‘i State Epidemiologist Sarah Park said these new clusters are a reflection of our desire to get back to some “semblance of normal.”
“We want to take measures to protect our loved ones,” Park added. “These cases are a reminder of that.”