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COVID-19 cluster report highlights Oahu elementary school, notes downward trend in cases statewide

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The latest cluster report from the Hawaii Department of Health reflects a downward trend of COVID-19 cases, with only 13 clusters currently under investigation statewide.

The report, released Thursday, highlights a cluster of 30 coronavirus cases associated with an Oahu elementary school that occurred in August and September.

Seven individuals in a class of 30 students and staff tested positive, while one other individual with COVID-19 symptoms was “epidemiologically linked.”

Health officials also discovered 22 secondary cases among household members. One of these secondary cases — an individual who was not vaccinated – was also hospitalized.

There were also six breakthrough cases among those fully vaccinated, including one staff member and five secondary cases. DOH did not specify whether the school was public or private.

The school enforced multiple mitigation strategies to help stop the spread of COVID-19, which included mask wearing, physical distancing, and screening and testing of students, faculty, and staff on campus.

DOH’s response team also advised the school to improve ventilation in the classrooms. It turns out that teachers at the school were keeping windows and doors closed to maintain central air conditioning and limit outdoor noise.

The team recommended that the school improve airflow in classrooms as an extra layer of protection.

DOH is currently awaiting federal approval to administer Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to keiki ages 5 to 11 years old, which covers the age range for most students in elementary schools.

Gov. David Ige earlier this week said pending federal approvals, vaccinations for Hawaii children ages 5 to 11 could begin as soon as Nov. 8. He said the state was planning on more than 150 vaccination locations for younger children, including the possibility of more than 100 schools to serve as vaccination sites.

At the same time, DOH noted in this cluster report that Hawaii has been experiencing a downward trend of COVID-19 cases statewide over the last few weeks.

Thursday, DOH reported two new coronavirus-related deaths and 126 new infections statewide, bringing the state’s totals since the start of the pandemic to 891 fatalities and 83,832 cases. The 7-day average of new cases is at 121, and an average positivity rate of 2.1%.

These 13 clusters — compared to 48 back in mid-August — occurred at food suppliers, social gatherings, places of worship, and construction and other occupational settings.

The majority of cases are at correctional facilities, which continue to be listed.

A cluster is defined as three or more confirmed or probably COVID-19 cases linked to a particular site or event within one incubation period of two weeks. But the same cluster may be included in multiple reports if a new case is identified within 14 days of the finalized report, according to DOH.

During the midst of the delta surge in mid-August, DOH was investigating up to 48 clusters in all four major counties, including outbreaks at a wedding and a concert.

Health officials are investigating 13 clusters involving more than 800 COVID-19 cases, most of which are associated with ongoing clusters at correctional facilities.

>> In Honolulu County, officials are investigating two clusters at correctional facilities involving 368 cases, two clusters at food suppliers involving 60 cases, one in the construction and industrial setting involving four cases, and one in the travel, lodging, and tourism industry involving six cases.

>> In Maui County, officials are investigating a cluster at an educational setting with 17 cases, and two within other occupational settings with 16 cases.

>> In Hawaii County, officials are investigating a cluster at a correctional facility with 336 cases, one at a social gathering with 13 cases, and another at a place of worship resulting in 22 cases.

>> In Kauai County, officials are only investigating one cluster at a social gathering that resulted in four cases.

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