LIHU‘E — Representatives of the World Health Organization say data now shows secondary transmission of COVID-19 in asymptomatic individuals, or those showing no signs of the virus, is “very rare”.
While answering a media question during a Monday press conference, WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said for those who haven’t developed COVID-19 symptoms, like a fever or shortness of breath, “it appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward.”
The conclusion was drawn through studying contact tracing, Van Kerkhove said, and urged continued detailed contact tracing to better the world’s understanding of the virus.
In response to the new information from WHO, Mayor Derek Kawakami and the state’s COVID-19 Joint Information Center both emphasized the fluidity of COVID-19 recovery and reiterated the importance of mask wearing.
“We don’t know who may have an asymptomatic infection, so the best we can do is act as though we have the virus and behave accordingly,” Kawakami said in a statement to The Garden Island. “That means wearing masks when we are in close or prolonged contact with those outside of our household. It means to practice social distancing. It means to wash our hands, refrain from touching our faces and to clean surfaces often.”
A statement from the Joint Information Center echoed Kawakami’s response, pointing out the phases of recovery that have been activated as information and circumstances change, saying: “The state is in a different phase of recovery than it was weeks ago and guidance and measures will evolve as we continue to reopen and rebuild our economy.”
The Joint Information Center pointed out the difficulty of finding balance in some pandemic-related decisions, like the recent statewide peaceful demonstrations, demanding an end police brutality and protesting racism.
“Large gatherings in crowded conditions without social distancing and without the use of masks are responsible for increasing the spread of respiratory disease such as COVID-19,” the information center’s statement said.
It continued: “The recent peaceful protests in Hawai‘i have been a justifiable expression of the people’s outrage over national events and racism. It’s sometimes difficult to find the right balance in these situations. The Governor is asking protesters to consider self-quarantining and monitoring their health for a few days in order to protect others.”
On Kaua‘i, Kawakami was at Saturday’s demonstration with his family, noting the vast majority of people were wearing masks and “respected our physical space”.
“I’m proud of our response across our state and especially here on Kaua‘i in terms of our ability to peacefully protest. People across the nation and around the world are hurting deeply and have been moved to act,” he said in a statement to TGI, Monday, acknowledging the risk of such a gathering during a pandemic.
“Yes, large gatherings of people increases the risk of exposure, but given the current circumstances, we knew these demonstrations were going to occur. Our administration and Kaua‘i Police Department acknowledged our community’s desire to safely express their emotions, and we extended our services to support those efforts as best we’re able,” he said.