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Clusters of COVID-19 infections at Hawaii social gatherings highlight importance of precautions

The Hawaii Department of Health’s cluster report this week focuses on how social gatherings such as graduation parties can generate COVID-19 infections when precautions are not taken.

Last month, health officials investigated a cluster of 10 COVID-19 cases associated with a high school post-graduation party.

Although the party was held outdoors, as recommended to lower the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, social distancing was not consistently practiced, and most attending were not vaccinated.

The party was attended by 15 friends and family members, officials said. Eight tested positive, and the virus then spread to two of their household members.

Fortunately, all who contracted COVID-19 experienced mild to moderate symptoms, and none had to be hospitalized. Two family members attending the party who were fully vaccinated tested negative for the virus, and remained asymptomatic.

On May 25, Gov. David Ige lifted outdoor mask requirements in Hawaii but said wearing masks is still highly recommended outdoors when in large groups.

Health officials recommend that party attendees wear masks when in crowds or when distancing is not possible for large gatherings outdoors. Also, that 6 feet of distance be maintained between non-household members when masks come off for eating.

In May, health officials also investigated two clusters resulting in 46 cases related to celebrations held at places of worship.

They said 30 out of 67 attendees at events tested positive for the virus, which then resulted in 16 secondary cases.

Three were hospitalized, and one required intensive care.

None of those in attendance reported being vaccinated, officials said, and there was no social distancing during the celebrations.

“Celebrations and gatherings are safest when all participants are vaccinated and everyone practices the recommended COVID-19 mitigation measures, including correct and consistent mask use indoors, in crowds outdoors, and social distancing,” said health officials in the cluster report.

The report, released on Thursday, reflects clusters under investigation for the past two weeks.

Health officials have also been investigating the following clusters:

HONOLULU COUNTY

>> Two clusters from social gatherings that resulted in 25 cases, five of which were secondary, three clusters from restaurants that resulted in 17 cases, and one cluster in the travel, lodging and tourism category resulting in nine cases.

MAUI COUNTY

>> Two clusters from social gatherings that resulted in 26 cases, two clusters at restaurants that resulted in 10 cases, and one at an educational setting that resulted in four cases.

HAWAII COUNTY

>> One cluster at a correctional facility that resulted in 150 cases.

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