COVID Cases on the Rise
By Catherine Cluett Pactol | Editor
Molokai logged 40 new COVID-19 cases in the week between Wednesday, May 4 and Wednesday, May 11, bringing the island total to 1,017 since the pandemic began. However, that number may be significantly lower than the actual number of recent positive cases because of the increased accessibility to home tests, the results of which aren’t reported to the state, according to health officials.
Dr. Libby Char, Hawaii Dept. of Health director, said with the rise in prevalence of home COVID tests, it’s likely that more people are taking tests at home than at testing facilities. She suggested the number of reported cases can be multiplied by five to seven times for a more accurate count of current positive cases.
That means instead of 40 cases last week, Molokai likely had between 200 and 280 new COVID-positive residents.
It’s more important to look at the trends of cases, Char said — Hawaii has seen a seven-week trend of rising cases. At its low in mid-March, the state averaged 94 cases per day, which has increased steadily and is now averaging 722 new positive cases per day and a 14.3 percent test positive rate as of May 11, the DOH reported. There were 5,768 new cases statewide during the May 4-11 period – which translates to 28,840 when multiplied by Char’s suggestion of five.
Many of Molokai’s recent cases have been at schools, according to data from the Dept. of Education. Both Molokai Middle and High schools were among the top eight in the state for the number of COVID cases reported among students and staff last week during the period from May 3 to May 12. Molokai High School reported 43 cases on campus during that period, and Molokai Middle School had 27. Molokai Middle had the highest percent of cases in the state, at 11.49 percent of staff and students testing positive, while Molokai High was third in Hawaii at 9.68 percent positivity.
Kaunakakai School reported nine cases between May 3-12, and Maunaloa Elementary had two positives.
During an interview on the Star Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii last week, Char attributed the increasing trend to increased travel, removal of COVID restrictions and new COVID-19 sub-variants circulating.
“I’m expecting the numbers to keep going up for the next few weeks through graduation season,” she said. “I would ask people to be smart if you’re going to large gatherings, and avoid them if possible… We have the tools and we know what we should do,” she added, reiterating the suggestions to get vaccinated, boosted and wear masks, especially when indoors or at gatherings.
Though at-home test kits affect the number of cases reported, Char said they’re a valuable tool.
“I think more importantly the home tests are really key because you can test, get your results right away and take action,” she said. “If you’re sick, stay home, whether or not you get a positive.”
She suggested if you take a home test and it’s negative, to retest in a few days, as your “viral load” may not be high enough yet to pick up the positive result if you do have COVID.
DOH spokesperson Brooks Baehr said the department is no longer contacting all those who test positive or those who may be close contacts of positive cases, but continues to investigate clusters, especially in congregate settings.