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Worrisome surge in COVID cases on Hawaii Island prompts calls for more testing

With Hawaii Island recently emerging as the state’s newest COVID hotspot, health officials are keeping a close eye on the county’s COVID spread.
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 4:54 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With Hawaii Island recently emerging as the state’s newest COVID hotspot, health officials are keeping a close eye on the county’s COVID spread — and asking for more testing.

In its latest report, the state says Hawaii County is averaging 117 cases a day.

But Dr. Kaohimanu Dang Akiona estimates the actual number is seven to 10 times higher and says a contributing factor is a lack of testing.

“While other counties have reinstated some of their testing, we haven’t and in terms of just making them go to the urgent care, it’s not working out and this is definitely not keeping a handle on anything,” said Dang Akiona, who works with the Premier Medical Group.

Hawaii County stopped sponsoring testing sites in late March. So to help fill that gap, Dang Akiona and her clinic have distributed roughly 1,200 at-home tests. She says more resources are needed.

“Just the amount of travelers that come in, the multi-generational households we have and the fact that there’s very few degrees of separation between me and the person riding the bus,” she said.

Epidemiologist Tim Brown has been tracking infection numbers statewide and says this surge is a product of relaxed attitudes toward the virus as well as a lack of testing and access to treatments.

The CDC now classifies the entire state as a “high risk” area for COVID spread.

“We have a very serious epidemic situation, but people are acting like nothing’s going on and that’s a real issue,” said Brown, in an interview Monday with Honolulu Star Advertiser Spotlight Hawaii.

He expects this current wave to last through mid-July and a key factor in keeping cases low will be staying current with vaccines and boosters.

“Keep in mind, vaccine protection is waning,” Brown said.

“Protection due to previous infection is also waning, therefore, the population is getting more susceptible to more hospitalizations and more severe illness as we go forward because of that waning of protections.”

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