LIHU‘E — While COVID-19 has surged through the mainland United States during the holiday season, case counts on Kaua‘i have been holding relatively stable.
The island saw 78 new cases from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2 — an average of 12 a day — with a test positivity rate of 11 percent.
“It is still possible that we will see a rise in cases after the recent holiday travel and gatherings, as several places on the mainland are experiencing, but so far we haven’t seen evidence of it,” said Lauren Guest, Deputy District Health Officer at the Kauai District Health Office.
“The County of Kauai has done a great job of continuing to push the message of the importance of staying home when sick, testing when ill or exposed, staying up to date on COVID vaccinations, avoiding large gatherings, and wearing masks in crowded indoor settings. Hopefully, our residents have utilized these mitigation measures and we won’t see a significant rise in cases on island.”
Statewide, there were 1,316 new cases, an average of 177 per day.
COVID’s lingering effects
A study released by The University of Hawai‘i on Thursday showed that more people felt the worst of the virus is behind them. Of the Hawai‘i residents surveyed in fall of last year, 85 percent said they felt the worst of the pandemic is over, with only 15 percent saying the worst is yet to come. In another version of the survey put out in spring of last year, only 76 percent held this view.
“As we enter a new phase of the pandemic, Hawai‘i’s populations are becoming more confident that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, driving COVID-19 booster uptake down,” the study reads.
Yet, the effects of the virus remain in lingering symptoms, financial difficulties, and mental health problems.
Almost 30 percent of the 1,600 Hawai‘i residents surveyed reported experiencing some version of “long-COVID” — long-term effects from a COVID-19 infection.
The most common symptoms of long-COVID were mental fog and headache, reported by 59 percent of long-COVID respondents. The next two most common symptoms were cough and shortness of breath (53 percent) and extreme fatigue (49 percent). With the exception of cough and shortness of breath, every long-COVID symptom was reported at a higher rate in fall 2022 than in spring 2022.
Respondents were hard-hit economically, with 29 percent of the individuals reporting having their savings depleted, 14 percent reporting they were unable to pay bills, and 9 percent without enough food in their household.
Nearly 5 percent had lost their jobs and more than 7 percent were furloughed or reduced their working hours since May 2022.
Unemployed people were more likely to be experiencing symptoms of long-COVID with 47 percent of those out of work reporting at least one symptom. Additionally, unemployed individauls were more likely to report symptoms of depression — also 47 percent.
In all, one out of every three Hawai‘i residents reported some symptoms of depression in the survey. A bright spot in the lingering mental health crisis is there was a 2.5 percent decline in suicidal ideation among respondents.
Despite keeping cases low during the early days of the pandemic, a higher percentage of Kaua‘i residents have now contracted the virus, the study shows. Kaua‘i had the highest historical positivity rate of all counties in the state, at 66 percent compared to 45 percent statewide.
Guest speculated this may be the result of easier access to testing on the island.
“Because we’ve had access to free easy PCR testing, most of our cases tend to be diagnosed,” said Guest. “On the other islands, testing hasn’t been as readily available so there is a lot more home testing that never has an official diagnosis.”
For a list of testing locations, visit kauai.gov/COVIDTest. For information about vaccine providers and the services they offer, people can visit the vaccine-finder map at hawaiicovid19.com/vaccine. For a list of vaccination locations on Kaua‘i, visit kauai.gov/vaccine or call the DOH Kaua‘i District Health Office at 808-241-3495.
Source: The Garden Island