Hawaii is veering into “super spreader” territory with the rise in COVID-19 cases.
Hawaii health officials reported 152 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, raising the statewide total since the start of the pandemic to 3,498.
While the state’s total case count relative to other states is still low, case counts have been rising rapidly since July 28. Sunday marked the seventh day in a row of triple-digit case surges.
“We are ‘super spreaders’,” said Dr. Scott Miscovich, the president and founder of Premier Medical Group Hawaii, who is running COVID testing sites. “National statistics show that for every one person that tests positive for coronavirus in Hawaii, the number of people that they are spreading to is the highest in the country.”
On Saturday, Hawaii’s reproduction number was 1.36, meaning people who test positive for coronavirus in the state will infect an average of 1.36 other people.
The reproduction rate of 1.36 is well above all other states. The next closest state was Montana with a rate of 1.13.
A rate above 1 means the virus will spread quickly. A rate below 1 means the virus will eventually stop spreading.
According to the data, Hawaii first rose above 1 on May 7, which was tied to the reopening of the local economy.
There’s evidence that Hawaii’s higher reproduction rate is growing more problematic , Miscovich said.
Miscovich, who supports broad scale testing, blames the issue mostly on poor contact tracing and inadequate testing capacity.
“We only have about 2,500 tests per day that can be run and they are prioritized for the hospital,” he said. “Two weeks ago,we could get test results in a day or two; now it’s been pushed back to four days or more.”
Sunday’s new COVID-19 cases include 147 on Oahu, three on Hawaii island and one each on Maui and Kauai, according to the state Department of Health.
The death toll remains at 31. A total of 24 coronavirus-related deaths have been on Oahu, six on Maui, and one was a Kauai resident who died on the mainland.
Sunday’s statewide coronavirus case total includes 3,111 on Oahu, 185 in Maui County, 131 on Hawaii island, and 48 in Kauai County, according to health officials. The total also includes 23 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state.
Officials counted 2,698 new tests in Sunday’s tally, with Sunday’s 152 positive cases representing 5.6% of the total tested. Of the 141,944 coronavirus tests conducted so far by state and clinical laboratories in Hawaii since the start of the outbreak, about 2.5% have been positive.
Miscovich said the community spread of the virus also is tied to people who have determined that they are “out of the woods” and have started participating in group activities. Although, he said, the vast majority of people that he sees at drive-by testing sites are coming in with work exposures.
On Sunday several employers and facilities reported cases. Bank of Hawaii confirmed that an employee at its Waikiki Branch had tested positive for COVID-19. The bank said that the employee did not have close contact with customers. The employee last worked on Friday and typically works from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Bank of Hawaii hired a professional sanitation service to deep-clean the branch.
Walmart also temporarily closed its Keeamoku store so that third-party cleaners can deep-clean and sanitize the building as part of a company-initiated program taking place at select stores across the nation. The store was slated to close at 2 p.m. Sunday and is expected to reopen at 7 a.m. Tuesday to give associates time to further clean and restock shelves.
The state Department of Public Safety said Sunday that two additional correction officers at Oahu Community Correctional Center and three inmates had tested positive for COVID-19. The new cases brought the total of those testing positive at OCCC to three officers and six inmates.
Of all the confirmed Hawaii cases, 239 have required hospitalization, with two new hospitalizations on Oahu reported Sunday, health officials said.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Saturday that there are 105 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including 24 patients in intensive care units and 15 on ventilators.
Kauai County officials said Sunday that the new case on the Garden Isle is an adult resident who recently returned home from inter-island travel. The resident is in isolation but not hospitalized, they said.
“This is the second Kauai case related to inter-island travel,” Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami said in a news release. “Reinstating the inter-island quarantine will help us to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on our island, particularly as the cases on Oahu continue to rise.”
On Thursday, Gov. David Ige announced the reinstatement of the 14-day mandatory quarantine for inter- island arrivals to all islands except Oahu, effective Tuesday.