LIHU‘E — State Department of Health Kaua’i District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman said her office is hiring a few more University of Hawai‘i-trained contact tracers.
Kaua‘i County has 61 contact tracers available.
There are 30 contact tracers per 100,000 population, depending on the rate of COVID-19 infections in a given area.
The tracers include the DOH Kaua‘i District Health Office employees and medical reserve corps members.
“As of press time, the county has five active cases, 51 recovered and 56 confirmed cases on the island, which means the contact tracers will be ready if needed,” Berreman said.
“Because our case counts remain low and our contact-tracing team is quite robust, we do not plan to bring on large additional numbers at this time,” Berreman said. “Several apps are being tested by various entities that can function as aids to contact tracing, but none fully replace contact-tracer personnel.”
The Kaua‘i District Health Office is part of the state DOH, and communicates daily with O‘ahu personnel, Berreman said.
“We learn from each other regularly,” Berreman said. “I appreciate the insights and experience of the O‘ahu team and the teams on the other neighbor islands.”
Interisland travel poses a risk of disease exposure, especially with so much active disease transmission on O‘ahu compared to Kaua‘i.
“Contact tracing is performed by phone, but interisland travel does not pose a significant barrier to contact-tracing efforts,” Berreman said. “The Kaua’i contact tracers are all located here on Kaua’i.”
Berreman claims Kaua‘i County has contacted all of the island’s confirmed cases within 24 hours of learning about them.
“There are a few instances that have taken longer related to extenuating circumstances such as those being out of telephone range, incorrect contact information or unresponsive to our outreach,” Berreman said. “We do informally track Kaua‘i when new cases are identified as a result of contact tracing.”
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who represents rural O‘ahu and the neighbor islands, was joined by three medical experts regarding allegations that lies are coming from the DOH leadership regarding contact-tracing efforts in Hawai’i.
During a press conference, Gabbard spoke of over $50 million in federal resources available to Hawai‘i for testing and tracing.
She pointed to conflicting claims from state health officials that there were dozens or over a hundred contact tracers, which proved to be a lie. She also called on Gov. David Ige to restore trust in the state Department of Health.
State leaders, including Ige, have long assured the public that sufficient contact-tracing staff are in place.
Gabbard’s press conference alleged there were less than 20 people statewide conducting contact tracing.
“The lies and gross negligence coming from state leaders has resulted in thousands more infected, hundreds hospitalized and an increasing death toll,” Gabbard said in a recent press release. “How many more people need to die before state leaders take necessary action?”
According to a DOH press release, the DOH launched its first phase of a statewide educational campaign as part of a comprehensive, multi-pronged solution to address the sustained number of COVID-19 cases in Hawai‘i.
The “Not Taking Chances” campaign, developed with research, creative and production support from Anthology Marketing Group, aims to change social norms by modeling attitudes and behaviors to underscore the importance of wearing facial masks and avoiding groups and social gatherings, the release states.
“Prevention is key to bringing the number of cases down,” said DOH Director Dr. Bruce Anderson, noting that disease investigation, contact tracing, testing and other aspects of the pandemic response are vital priorities.
“We believe our efforts dovetail with the City &County of Honolulu’s ‘One O‘ahu’ campaign,” Anderson said. “It is already underway, and will create a powerful, cumulative effect throughout the island.”
Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.