Experts predict small uptick in COVID-19 cases after holiday, but caution larger spikes are possible

Experts predict small uptick in COVID-19 cases after holiday, but caution larger spikes are possible

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - With millions of Americans traveling this Thanksgiving, against the advice of the CDC, some experts warn the holiday could be the “mother of all super-spreader events.”

In Hawaii, officials say the situation isn’t expected to be so dire.

But they’re still worried that gatherings could trigger an uptick in cases.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s mathematics department created a Thanksgiving video with a strong warning. Mathematics professor Monique Chyba says holiday gatherings, reduced mask wearing, increased travel and fatigue could be a bad recipe for Hawaii.

“Every single one of them can be the potential of a holiday super-spreader that we want to avoid,” said Chyba.

Canada is cautionary tale. Its Thanksgiving was Oct. 12 and saw cases skyrocket, doubling in a month.

“Any little trigger would put us back into an exponential growth,” said Chyba.

But unlike Canada and much of the mainland, it’s easier to be outdoors in Hawaii rather than indoors.

“Based on where we’re trending right now, it’s a slight trend up,” said Thomas Lee, UH assistant professor of epidemiology and co-chair of The Hawaii Pandemic Applied Modeling Work Group.

HiPAM is a group of epidemiologists, mathematics professors and others that analyze COVID-19 data and create two-week forecasts using historical data, seven-day averages and cluster information.

They forecast a slight rise in cases, but acknowledge that’s it’s difficult to analyze the data because of a series of holiday factors. We won’t truly know the impact of Thanksgiving for a couple weeks.

“We are not expecting anything too high in the next two weeks. The steady number of cases that we are seeing between 70 and 80 a day and sometimes 90, but nothing out of the ordinary,” said Lee.

Experts say Hawaii’s COVID numbers have been steady for about two months with no Halloween spike.

“That in itself has been a remarkable fact,” said Chyba. “We’re doing a great job holding steady which is really difficult to do with a virus like COVID,” said Lee.

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