DOE says there have been 13 coronavirus cases at public schools

Updated: Aug. 11, 2020 at 5:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Education Department said Tuesday that there have been 13 coronavirus cases on public school campuses since June.

Six of those cases have happened in August, with no students on campus.

The figures were released after the Hawaii teachers union complained that the department’s lack of transparency about COVID-19 cases was potentially putting people at risk.

The state didn’t release COVID-19 cases by school, but by complex area:

  • Farrington-Kaiser-Kalani: One case reported on July 8
  • Kaimuki-McKinley-Roosevelt: One case reported on August. 6
  • Aiea-Moanalua-Radford: Two cases, one on July 5 and the second on August 9
  • Leilehua-Mililani-Waialua: Four cases, all reported in late July
  • Campbell-Kapolei: Three cases, all reported in early August
  • Pearl City-Waipahu: One case, reported on August 11
  • Kapaa-Kauai-Waimea: One case, reported on June 28

All but three of the reported COVID-19 cases are staff members.

And in most cases, staff or families (or both) were notified, the state Education Department said.

In a news conference Tuesday, the Hawaii State Teachers Association called on DOE leadership to be more transparent about where cases are.

HSTA President Corey Rosenlee said the public should be informed whenever there is a positive case on campus, especially given the state Health Department’s inability to follow up on all confirmed infections to determine who might have been exposed.

“I think the DOE has an obligation to share which schools have people who have contracted the coronavirus. They should inform (us) of how many people are being quarantined,” Rosenlee said.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said that timely notification was made to the impacted school community for each COVID-19 case at a DOE school or office.

“We’re trying to report at a level that allows the public to understand what is the positive case situation in the DOE by region so there is that information, and further details really need to be provided by Department of Health,” Kishimoto said.

Anthony McCurdy, a Campbell High School photography teacher, is in quarantine after he was notified by the school over the weekend that he may have been exposed to a case on campus.

“My administration did everything they could to follow up on contacts from the person who tested positive,” he said. “Evidently, it was reported to the Department of Health, but I never received any follow-up call from the DOH regarding my potential exposure.”

McCurdy said he found out that he tested negative on Tuesday.

The state health department is the lead agency in terms of notifying individuals who were possibly exposed, according to Kishimoto.

“Whenever a confirmed positive COVID-19 case is reported to the Department of Health, our team of disease investigators immediately steps into action. This includes notification of those who have been in close contact with those who are positive and at risk for contracting the disease to ensure they are appropriately tested or quarantined,” said DOH director Bruce Anderson in a statement. “It is important to note the Department of Health has ranked school-related cases as a high priority for expedited follow-up investigations.”

Kishimoto said she requested that the health department consider assigning a team of contact tracers to work specifically with the DOE.

The new school year on Oahu will start Aug. 17 fully online, with the vast majority of students participating in distance learning.

Most Neighbor Island public schools will start the fall semester fully online, the DOE announced Tuesday.

But the Education Department said schools will be coordinating time for the tens of thousands of public school students to come to campus at the start of the school year so they can meet with teachers and learn distance learning programs. Rosenlee said it’s not a good idea to bring students to campus at a time when new COVID-19 cases are surging on Oahu.

“It is not the time to bring kids back to classrooms,” he said.

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