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Fast clip of coronavirus spread in Hawaii puts state at risk of another outbreak

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                                People who flocked to Waimea Bay on the North Shore to watch hazardous high surf Saturday were not social distancing, and only a few wore masks.


    People who flocked to Waimea Bay on the North Shore to watch hazardous high surf Saturday were not social distancing, and only a few wore masks.

Hawaii is at risk of another COVID-19 outbreak with the worst effective reproduction rate for infections in the nation after Washington state.

Hawaii health officials on Sunday reported two new coronavirus-­related deaths on Oahu and 132 new infections, bringing the state’s totals since the start of the pandemic to 322 fatalities and 24,353 cases.

Hawaii’s recent results have been better than those in most other states and territories.

Still, one measure of potential growth in COVID-19 cases shows Hawaii could be in for another surge.

According to’s Saturday metrics, Hawaii’s virus effective reproduction rate was 1.12, making it the worst state after Washington, which had a rate of 1.15., a data model created by Instagram’s founders, measures the average number of people in each state who become infected by an infectious person. Hawaii’s rate of 1.12 means on average a person with COVID-19 will spread the virus to 1.12 people.

Two weeks ago Hawaii’s score was 1.11. A month ago it was 1.

A reason to pay attention to even subtle changes in a state’s score is that they signal the potential for future problems. A score below 1 indicates the virus is receding, while the higher a score rises above 1, the faster the virus will spread.

Likewise, COVID Act Now, a nonprofit that provides local-level disease intelligence and data analysis on the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic, also assessed Hawaii as one of three states or territories, including Puerto Rico and North Dakota, that were at risk of a COVID outbreak.

COVID Act Now data showed all other U.S. states were experiencing active or severe outbreaks.

COVID Act Now’s warning system takes into account how many new cases are being confirmed daily, whether the number of infections is going up or down and whether COVID testing is widespread enough. According to COVID Act Now’s analysis, Hawaii has adequate testing, and the state’s ICUs could likely handle a new wave of COVID. However, COVID Act now data shows that Hawaii is dealing with a “very large number of new cases” and still has “insufficient tracers, even if the program is run efficiently.”

According to the state Department of Health, Hawaii’s COVID-19 investigation team as of Friday had 211 contact tracers working on Oahu and 104 working on the neighbor islands, with the possibility of adding staff.

Sunday’s new statewide infection cases reported by the Health Department included 86 on Oahu, 29 on Maui, seven on the Big Island, one on Kauai and nine residents diagnosed outside of Hawaii, officials said.

The statistics released Sunday reflect the new infection cases reported to the department Friday.

Health officials also said Sunday that of the state’s total infection count, 2,191 cases were considered active. By island, Oahu has 1,615 active cases, Maui has 398, the Big Island has 151, Kauai has 24 and Molokai has three, according to the state’s latest tally. Lanai has no active COVID cases.

Health officials counted 5,457 new COVID-19 test results in Sunday’s tally, for a 2.3% statewide positivity rate. The state’s seven-day average positivity rate is 2.6%, according to the Hawaii COVID-19 Data dashboard.

Of all the confirmed Hawaii infection cases, 1,611 have required hospitalization, with seven new hospitalizations on Oahu reported Sunday by state health officials.

Four hospitalizations in the statewide count are Hawaii residents who were diagnosed and treated outside the state.

According to the latest information from the department’s Hawaii COVID-19 Data dashboard, 108 patients with the virus were in Hawaii hospitals as of 8:30 a.m. Friday, with 20 in intensive care units and 18 on ventilators.

State health officials have started posting the number of vaccinations administered statewide. As of Wednesday, the department said, 40,386 individuals have been vaccinated as of Jan. 9 — including 25,613 in Honolulu County, 4,182 in Maui County, 4,251 in Hawaii County and 2,740 in Kauai County. The vaccination numbers are updated weekly. An additional 3,600 shots were administered through the state’s Special Pharmacy Program.

Oahu moved to the less restrictive Tier 2 of Hono­lulu’s four-tier economic recovery plan on Oct. 22. To gauge whether Honolulu will move to a different tier, the city takes a “weekly assessment” of two key COVID-19 numbers each Wednesday. To move to Tier 3 from Tier 2, the seven-day average of new cases must be below 50 on two consecutive Wednesdays. Also, the seven-day average positivity rate must be below 2.5% on those two Wednesdays.

Sunday’s seven-day average case count for Oahu is 99, and the seven-day average positivity rate is 3.2%, according to the city.

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