Kim: Big Island virus spike due to local spread, not travel

Kim: Big Island virus spike due to local spread, not travel
File photo (Source: Hawaii News Now/file)

HONOLULU (AP) — A recent spike in COVID-19 cases on Hawaii island is the result of community spread, not a reopening of trans-Pacific or interisland travel, the mayor has said.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim is aware of concerns among residents that coronavirus cases may have been transmitted by incoming travelers, but he said that is not the case, Hawaii Public Radio reported Tuesday.

Hawaii County reported 51 new cases Sunday, which was a single-day record for the island since the pandemic began.

“First of all, none of them were travel-related,” Kim said. “All of these places that show the very high amount were strictly local residents.”

The outbreak included a cluster of about 15 people at an apartment complex and another 23 cases at an affordable housing community. A majority of the county’s confirmed COVID-19 cases are on the eastern side of the island.

Kim said the rise in reported cases is also a result of the county’s enhanced coronavirus testing strategy, which includes targeted testing in multi-family housing complexes when someone tests positive.

Democratic state Rep. Nicole Lowen said she and her staff have tracked case data in her district, but that case numbers mean little without context to explain the risks involved in specific activities.

“I wish that the Department of Health would, even if they can’t release names or the names of businesses, that they could say, ‘This stemmed out of a birthday party or a church gathering or a work situation,’” Lowen said.

Compliance with mask wearing and social distancing protocols remains a challenge and the county should use federal coronavirus recovery funds to help strengthen enforcement efforts, Lowen said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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