The state Department of Health’s latest cluster report highlights how the coronavirus spread among four retail salespeople within a two-week span.
Out of four COVID-19 cases identified among salespeople 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 co-workers — 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 for COVID-19, or the time it takes to develop symptoms after an exposure, can take up to 14 days.
The report, released Thursday, reviews the COVID-19 clusters under investigation within the past two weeks and shows 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 educational settings were identified in all three counties, totaling 105 cases.
The state Health Department on Friday reported one new coronavirus-related death and 98 new infections statewide, bringing the state’s totals since the start of the pandemic to 474 fatalities and 31,171 cases.
The death was of a Maui woman in her 70s, with underlying conditions, who had been hospitalized.
Among Friday’s newly reported infection cases were 67 on Oahu, 17 on Maui, three on Hawaii island and 11 residents diagnosed out of state. Officials removed and recategorized some cases due to updated information.
A total of 1,027,849 vaccines have been administered, based on preliminary numbers reported Friday, the department said, up nearly 20,000 from Thursday.
On Monday the state opens up vaccine eligibility on Oahu to all residents 16 and up, as is already the case in Kauai, Maui and Hawaii counties.
Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, said vaccination efforts are going well since eligibility opened up to all retail workers April 5. She said she wishes, however, that all categories of retail workers were able to access vaccines sooner.
There are more than 165,000 jobs directly related to retail in Hawaii, according to the National Retail Federation.
“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 Monday, she said, because many high school students also work part time in retail.
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, resulting in 12 cases. There were also the four cases associated with the cluster among retail salespeople, presumably 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 to 90 cases from 77, according to the cluster report.
King’s Cathedral, in a news release Friday, said this statement is “patently false” and that the church as of today has only 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, along with 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 clear of active cases.
Hawaii County, which reported few to no clusters in previous weeks, now has three: one related to an education setting that generated 37 coronavirus cases, and additional clusters from social gatherings and places of worship, adding up to 20 cases total.