LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i County’s test positivity rate is the highest in Hawai‘i, as COVID-19 case numbers increase throughout the State.
“We are in the seventh consecutive week of increased COVID-19 cases in the community now, with a new seven-day daily average of 722 (statewide),” Hawai‘i Department of Health State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble told reporters Wednesday.
The State’s daily average stood at 94 on March 18, according to publicly-available HDOH data.
Now, hospitalizations and Intensive Care Unit admissions are also beginning to increase.
Nearly 77.5% of the State population has completed a primary series of COVID-19 vaccinations, as of May 10.
“Even though vaccines absolutely work to reduce risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, if you have lots and lots of COVID circulating in the community, some people who test positive are still going to get seriously ill, and some people are going to die from COVID-19,” Dr. Kemble said.
The state epidemiologist urged residents to remain up-to-date on their vaccinations, and to get tested if they develop symptoms.
She also recommended continued masking in indoor spaces, staying home when sick and avoiding crowds.
“This is a time for businesses, schools, and other organizations to make sure they have COVID-smart policies in place. Requirements to mask indoors at work and school make good sense when community transmission is high,” Dr. Kemble said. “Businesses should remind employees to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, ensure flexible sick leave policies and should actively encourage employees to stay home when sick.”
Dr. Kemble was joined by the Hawai‘i Department of Education’s Interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi.
Like the state at large, Hawai‘i’s public school system is in its seventh week of increased counts.
“A total of 1,053 confirmed or probable cases were reported across our 257 public schools all of last week,” Hayashi said. “By comparison, during the height of omicron, we saw numbers like these in a single day in mid-January. But it’s still a cause for concern.”
Students’ last day of classes is Thursday, May 26.
More than 40 graduation ceremonies are scheduled across the state next week, with the first taking place on Monday.
“Our schools and students have worked hard to get to this point, and we definitely want to be able to celebrate this achievement with family and with friends,” Hayashi said.
“We ask for everyone’s help to please be respectful of the safety protocols that schools are putting in place to ensure your safety and the safety of our broader community.”
Kaua‘i urges masking
Residents were asked to resume regular mask use and avoid large gatherings Thursday, during the County’s latest COVID-19 briefing.
The advisement comes as the County records another week of increased case numbers.
“I know everyone was hoping we would be done wearing masks and able to gather safely with our family and friends by now,” Kaua‘i District Health Officer Deputy Director Lauren Guest said.
“Unfortunately, our infection rates are high again at this time – and we have many members of our community who are at risk for severe disease from COVID-19.”
Kaua‘i County’s test positivity rate is now the highest among all counties in Hawai‘i, at 20.3%.
That means every fifth individual who takes a test for COVID-19 on Kaua‘i, tests positive.
The local seven-day daily case average has also increased. It’s now 48, over last week’s average of 27 new cases per day.
Ten are locally hospitalized due to the novel coronavirus, the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency’s online information dashboard showed at press time. One ICU bed and one ventilator were also in use, for COVID-19 patients.
Over one dozen active COVID-19 clusters are also under investigation.
“Most of these are workplace clusters that happen after extended close contact among staff who are not wearing masks,” Guest said.
Like Dr. Kemble on Wednesday, Guest recommended employers require masking indoors, and send symptomatic employees home.
Other clusters have been identified among school-aged children on Kaua‘i.
“The larger clusters among children are linked to events held outside of school, where precautionary measures like masking and distancing were not required,” Guest said.
The Hawai‘i Department of Health’s most recent cluster report, published May 6, identified three clusters totaling 12 cases of COVID-19 in Kaua‘i schools.
Source: The Garden Island