State: Reporting issue skews Hawaii’s number of new COVID-19 cases

Contact tracers are key to stopping COVID-19 and Hawaii doesn’t have enough of them

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii health officials reported 45 new COVID-19 cases across the state Sunday.

But like Saturday, state health officials say the number isn’t fully reflective of the active cases in the community due to delays in lab reporting and missing data.

“We are missing electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) data from one of the private clinical laboratories, from July 31 to today. This is likely a result of recent modifications in data reporting required by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said.

“We have advised the affected laboratory to provide manual reporting of data until they’re able to correct the reporting issues. This is impacting our ability to quickly identify and investigate new persons with COVID-19 and to contact trace,” she added.

Sunday’s cases brings the statewide total to 2,242 positives since the pandemic began.

That reflects a 7.1 percent positive rate of the more than 630 tests reported in the latest count. The state says it will likely update this weekend’s case count numbers in the coming days.

On Saturday, 87 cases were reported — a significant drop from the record-high triple-digit records set on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

But there are more delays with mainland labs as well.

“With many test specimens now being sent to mainland labs for processing, reporting of test results is delayed 5-7 days. This delay may make case numbers appear lower than actual disease activity,” the Department of Health said.

All but one of Sunday’s cases came from Oahu. One case came from Maui County.

Hawaii’s death toll stood at 26, and more than 126,600 people have been tested so far.

In recent weeks, the state has struggled to address the growing surge in COVID-19 cases, pleading with residents to avoid large gatherings, wear masks in public and practice hyper-hygiene.

“Everyone should avoid close contact with others outside of their household members, crowded places, and large gatherings. Act as if everyone around you has the virus and can spread it,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson in a renewed plea to residents.

Since March, 199 people in the islands with COVID-19 have required hospitalization. Meanwhile, 1,294 people have been released from Isolation.

In a bid to rein in the virus, Oahu has also shut down all bars for three weeks and banned alcohol sales at restaurants after 10 p.m. Gatherings have been limited to no more than 10 people on Kauai.

Meanwhile, the Board of Education has delayed the reopening of public schools until Aug. 17.

In a news conference Thursday, Gov. David Ige said the surge in new cases is a concern and acknowledged that contact tracers at the state Department of Health are already overwhelmed.

“Our healthcare system is still able to respond at this point but we need to take action in order to reduce the number of new cases we’re seeing,” Ige said.

Over the seven days ending Friday, Hawaii has seen an average of 81 new cases a day.

The new cases mean Hawaii closed out July with 1,206 coronavirus cases. From March to June, by comparison, the state confirmed 937 cases.

CONTINUING COVERAGE:

Here’s the latest county-by-county breakdown of confirmed positives:

OAHU

  • Total cases: 1,886
  • Released from isolation: 1,003
  • Required hospitalization: 166
  • Deaths: 19

MAUI COUNTY

  • Total cases: 171 (includes 2 on Molokai)
  • Released from isolation: 133
  • Required hospitalization: 26
  • Deaths: 6

KAUAI

  • Total cases: 47
  • Released from isolation: 43
  • Required hospitalization: 1
  • Deaths: 0

BIG ISLAND

  • Total cases: 115
  • Released from isolation: 115
  • Required hospitalization: 4
  • Deaths: 0

UNASSIGNED

  • Hawaii residents diagnosed out-of-state: 23
  • Hawaii residents who have died out-of-state: 1
  • Pending assignment to county: 0

This story will be updated.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.