COVID cases to increase as DOH includes ‘probable’ infections in state’s count

The city's mobile testing lab is now open to residents and visitors who need a COVID-19 test...
The city's mobile testing lab is now open to residents and visitors who need a COVID-19 test for inter-island travel.(Hawaii News Now)
Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 10:31 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Health said about 1,600 new COVID cases will be added to Hawaii’s case count Wednesday.

But the public shouldn’t be alarmed.

The massive jump in cases is the result of adding “probable” infections to the state’s count — with some cases dating back to March of last year.

Health officials said people who test positive with an antigen test, but do not confirm infection with a PCR test are counted as probable cases.

DOH said if a person shows symptoms of COVID-19 and is a close contact of an infected patient, they will also be considered a probable case.

The Health Department said including probable cases will reflect a more realistic account of the prevalence of COVID infections in the state.

“We actually anticipate seeing more antigen testing as time goes on,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist.

“We are seeing lots of change in testing technology and probable cases by antigen is becoming a more common practice. It’s important for us to capture what’s actually going on with the pandemic and a complete picture of that includes probable cases.”

Kemble added that the new category of cases will likely not affect tier reopening plans.

“I don’t think it will have a big impact on seven-day averages, which is what we use for the tier system,” she said.

“For one ... probable cases go on to be confirmed so they don’t stay as probable case. The other is the total number of tests that come in as antigen tests is relatively small compared to PCR molecular testing. It’s a small proportion of cases that we receive.”

The Health Department said it normally receives about 10 to 20 probable cases a week across the state, but it’s dependent on how many antigen tests counties are giving and reporting.

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