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Rise in Hawaii coronavirus cases not as bad as feared

                                Abi Alambatin, left, and Venus Ganal from Kalihi Kai Urgent Care prepared paper work for drive-thru and walk-in patients at a COVID-19 test site at Wahiawa Community Park on Sunday.
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Abi Alambatin, left, and Venus Ganal from Kalihi Kai Urgent Care prepared paper work for drive-thru and walk-in patients at a COVID-19 test site at Wahiawa Community Park on Sunday.

Hawaii’s COVID-19 new case count hit its highest level in four days Sunday, but officials found some relief in that the number was still well below what they feared it would be in the wake of the Fourth of July holiday.

The state registered 28 new cases, the most since Wednesday (when there were 29), but experts had feared the count could reach 60 per day or more after going as high as 42 on July 11 and credited residents’ efforts.

“To start seeing these numbers gives a better feeling that maybe the community is standing up and doing what we need them to do — social distancing, wearing masks, preventing gatherings in enclosed environments and washing hands,” said Dr. Scott Miscovich, who is leading broad testing efforts in the islands through his organization, Premier Medical Group Hawaii.

The new cases brought the statewide total number of infections since the start of the outbreak to 1,381.

Miscovich said another positive is that only one new person has tested positive at the Pearl City Nursing Home, where a cluster of cases included four staff members and seven residents.

Miscovich said there also haven’t been any new cases in the past two weeks at Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, where 17 staff and residents were infected.

That cluster was started by a worker whose family member had COVID-19. Miscovich said he recommends that anyone exposed to COVID-19 get tested, but in this case, the asymptomatic staff member wasn’t tested.

“According to the latest CDC update, 40% of people with COVID are asymptomatic and at least 75% are just as contagious as those that have symptoms,” he said. “We need to continue to look for asymptomatic positives.”

Miscovich said a continuing challenge is that “so many people we talk to have no idea how they got it and it makes it really challenging for the contract tracers.”

The Aug. 4 start of public school, which tends to correlate to a rise in cold and flu season, is another hurdle along with a plan to reopen tourism to out-of-state visitors with the launch of a Sept. 1 pre-arrivals testing program.

Many Hawaii residents, including Miscovich, worry that lessening tourism restrictions for out-of-state passengers will lead to an even greater rise in coronavirus cases than occurred following the reopening of interisland travel and other facets of Hawaii’s local economy.

In the meantime, Hawaii continues to grapple with community spread of corona­virus, which so far has been responsible for 92% of all of the coronavirus cases in the state since the start of the outbreak.

Sunday’s new cases include 26 on Oahu and two on Hawaii island, according to the state Department of Health’s daily COVID-19 tally.

Health officials also removed one previous case from Honolulu’s total because of new information.

As of Sunday, 314 infections in Hawaii are active cases, with a total of 1,043 patients now classified by health officials as “released from isolation,” or about 75% of those infected. Twenty-four new release cases were reported Sunday. The category counts those infected people who have met the criteria for being released from isolation.

Sunday’s statewide coronavirus case total includes 1,065 on Oahu, 135 in Maui County, 113 on Hawaii island, and 43 in Kauai County, according to health officials. The total also includes 22 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state, and three cases that are pending identification of residency.

Hawaii’s coronavirus-related death toll remains at 24. Seventeen deaths have been on Oahu, six have been on Maui, and one was a Kauai resident who died in Arizona.

Of all the confirmed Hawaii cases since the start of the outbreak, 150 have required hospitalizations, with 10 new hospitalizations reported on Oahu on Sunday, health officials said.

Two hospitalizations in the statewide count are Hawaii residents who were diagnosed and treated outside the state. Of the 148 hospitalizations within the state, 118 have been on Oahu, 25 on Maui, four on Hawaii island, and one on Kauai.

By county, Honolulu has seen 780 patients released from isolation, and Maui has had 121 patients released. Hawaii island has 13 active infections, while Kauai County has one.

Of the 105,956 coronavirus tests conducted so far by state and clinical laboratories in Hawaii, 1.3% have been positive. Health officials counted 1,321 new test results in Sunday’s tally.

Star-Advertiser staff contributed to this report.

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