State declines to share data that city says is key to predicting future outbreaks

City says plan to test wastewater for presence of COVID-19 hampered by state

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city’s plan to monitor and forecast outbreaks on Oahu remains months behind schedule because the Department of Health is not sharing key data on the coronavirus.

The city is now testing sewage at its wastewater treatment plants for the virus on a daily basis.

But it can’t fully analyze the samples unless the state Health Department provides it with information about where the confirmed cases are, broken down by zip codes.

Josh Stanbro, the city’s chief resilience officer, said the state has declined two requests for that data.

“It has set us back ... probably by a couple of months," he said.

“I believe they had concerns about privacy of patients.”

Proponents say wastewater testing can provide a broad gauge of where the infections are in a community since the vast majority of people don’t take nasal swab tests.

Testing sewage could also alert the city that the virus is returning after restrictions are loosened.

Right now, the city is collecting and studying the test samples. Once it gets the zip code data from the state, it will be able to step up its analysis.

But Stanbro said that with the new leadership at the DOH, he’s now optimistic the state will eventually share the information. The Health Department had no immediate comment.

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