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Case Spike Continues

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

COVID continued at an elevated rate last week, with 151 new COVID-19 cases on Molokai reported by the Dept. of Health between Jan. 7 and Jan. 14. The island has had 658 cases since the pandemic began, as of last Sunday. Statewide, Jan. 13 brought a new single-day record of 5,977 cases across the state, breaking the previous record high of 4,789 set on Jan. 6. 

On Molokai in the last week, there were 28 new cases on Jan. 14, 23 on Jan. 13, 13 on Jan. 12, 16 on Jan. 11, 19 on Jan. 10, 21 on Jan. 9, 11 on Jan. 8, and 20 on Jan. 7. 

Kaunakakai School had three cases during the month of January, as reported by Dept. of Education data as of Jan. 16, Molokai High also had three, Maunaloa School had one case, and Molokai Middle had five cases so far in January. 

The DOH announced it will temporarily stop reporting certain COVID-19 data as of Jan. 16, citing overwhelm with data processing of positive cases. 

“DOH systems have not been able to process the large volume of positive and negative cases in recent days,” stated the Department last Saturday. “As a result, thousands of cases, both positive and negative, have not been reported. In order to expedite the processing and reporting of positive cases, DOH will suspend the processing of negative cases. This will allow for accurate positive case counts.”

DOH contact tracers are also not able to keep up with the volume of cases, according to the DOH. As a result, contact tracers are focusing on priority groups such as COVID-19 clusters associated with schools and high-risk settings such as long-term care facilities. 

“We have reported roughly 48,000 COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble. “It would be unrealistic to think our 378 contact tracers could get in touch with all those people. So, we are focusing on providing general and setting-specific guidance, and on cluster investigations that will help protect vulnerable populations.”

While both the amount of testing and the number of positive cases are increasing, a comparison of both rates is challenging for Molokai, given DOH’s lack of reporting. Even before DOH announced it would halt processing of negative results, the DOH only reported testing numbers on a county basis, rather than by island. 

“The number of cases Hawaii is experiencing is unprecedented, leading to a tremendous demand for testing. As testing data flows through the electronic reporting system, the system is stressed. Our essential DOH employees are also wrestling with tremendous challenges. We must adapt to address these circumstances,” said Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char.


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