The state Health Department’s latest cluster report highlights how the coronavirus spread between four retail salespersons within a two-week span.
Out of four COVID-19 cases identified among salespersons working at a retail store, the department said three were detected within a few days of one another. After one tested positive for the coronavirus, two immediately went to get tested, but a fourth tested positive 10 days later while in quarantine.
The coworkers— who weren’t vaccinated at the time of exposure — reported close contact with one another, including hugging, while at work.
Health officials are reminding the public that the incubation period of COVID-19, or the time it takes to develop symptoms after an exposure, can take up to 14 days.
Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, said vaccination efforts, meanwhile, are going well since eligibility opened up to all retail workers on April 5.
She wishes, however, that all categories of retail workers were able to access vaccines sooner.
“We deal with the public every day,” she said. “Especially when they opened it up to hotel workers, restaurants and bars, we were wondering how come not retail because we work with the public every day.”
It will also be helpful when vaccine eligibility opens up to those 16 and up on Monday, she said, because many high school students also work part-time in retail.
There are more than 165,000 jobs directly related to retail in Hawaii, according to the National Retail Federation.
The report, released Thursday, reviews the COVID-19 clusters under investigation within the past 14 days, showing an alarming increase among certain settings.
Among them are educational settings, social gatherings, food suppliers, travel, lodging and tourism, and places of worship across Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island.
Clusters related to an educational setting were identified in all three counties, totaling 105 cases.
Here is a closer look by county:
The highest number of cases, 26, resulted from two clusters at social gatherings.
Two clusters resulted in 20 cases related to an education setting. Another two clusters came from restaurants, generating 12 cases.
There were also the four cases associated with the one cluster among retail salespersons, categorized as “other.”
On Maui, seven clusters generated 93 cases from the travel, lodging and tourism industry.
The cluster at King’s Cathedral & Chapels on Maui, which the Health Department earlier named as an “imminent health threat,” has grown from 77 to 90 cases, according to the cluster report.
King’s Cathedral, in a press release today, said this statement is “patently false” and that the church as of today only has three active cases in two out of 24 congregations.
“King’s Cathedral and Chapels cleans and sanitizes between every service, have the pews spaced out 6 feet apart, provide masks to congregants at the door and have multiple hand sanitizing stations,” said the church in the release. “We spend time training our team on how to deal with COVID related situations that come up to ensure congregants feel at ease when joining our services.”
Another six clusters in educational settings generated 48 cases, plus two at food suppliers with 34 cases, and two at restaurants with seven cases.
The Maui correctional facility cluster generated 100 cases, but the Health Department said Thursday the inmate population is currently clear of active cases.
Hawaii County, which reported few to no clusters in previous weeks, now has three — a cluster related to an education setting that generated 37 coronavirus cases.
Additional clusters resulted from social gathering and places of worship, adding up to 20 cases total.