Experts: Daily COVID case count in Hawaii likely 7 times official figure

The Hawaii Pandemic Applied Modeling Work Group suspects COVID infections are seven times more than what’s being reported to the Health Department.
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 5:46 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 27, 2022 at 12:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - COVID infections are on the rise in Hawaii, but home testing means it’s hard to get a true picture of the daily case count.

The Hawaii Pandemic Applied Modeling Work Group suspects that are about 1,500 new daily infections on Oahu. That’s roughly seven times the official number.

Based on state Department of Health numbers, HiPAM said that could rise to 2,500 in early May.

“It shows that there are a lot of transmissions, but it seems to be in control in terms of severe hospitalization,” said Monique Chyba, a mathematician who does modeling for HiPAM.

Chyba’s group is trying to get a sense of all new infections, not just the ones reported to DOH.

At-home testing and asymptomatic people mean the number of positives reported to the state Health Department is much lower than the number of infections in the community.

Rule changes also make forecasting difficult for the group.

“We don’t have a lot of precedents for what’s going to happen with big policy changes, such as the lifting of masks,” said Thomas Lee, HiPAM co-chair.

According to the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, there were 54 people in Hawaii hospitals Tuesday with COVID, including those who came in originally with other ailments. The association said the state is managing only about one to two COVID cases a day in ICUs and the situation is very manageable.

“We had expected that with the lifting of safe travels and the indoor mask mandates that there would be a bump in cases,” said Hilton Raethel, the CEO and President of HAH.

“We are cautiously optimistic that what we are experiencing will be a bump and not a surge.”

University of Hawaii epidemiologist DeWolfe Miller has been tracking DOH data and says reported deaths have been on the rise for the past three weeks. The DOH said that is not necessarily reflective of the current COVID situation, however, because of a reporting delay.

Either way, Miller said now is the time to be careful and to take precautions. “It’s not a time to just let down your defenses,” Miller said. “There’s still plenty of infection, and caution is advised.”

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