LIHU‘E — While there have not been any new cases reported on Kaua‘i in about a week, yesterday, Mayor Derek Kawakami announced that the most recent case reported on the island had no known travel connection, and has been categorized community spread.
“This is not our first case of community transmission on Kaua‘i,” Kawakami said in his Daily COVID-19 Update Wednesday. “Thankfully, we were able to avoid a widespread outbreak through active contact tracing, and proper isolation and quarantine from cooperative cases and their identified close contacts. But it serves as a warning. As a community, we need to be extremely diligent.”
Yesterday, the state reported 277 new cases and the deaths of two O‘ahu men with underlying health conditions. This brings Hawai‘is death toll to 51. The state has seen a cumulative total of 6,626 cases since the start of the pandemic.
State officials expressed concern about increasing activity on Maui and Hawai‘i islands.
Hawai‘i island reported 23 new cases for a cumulative total of 243 and Maui has eight additional cases for a cumulative total of 311. The rest of the cases, 245, were on O‘ahu.
Kaua‘i County has not reported any new cases on the island since Thursday, Aug. 20. There are currently one active case with a cumulative total of 56 positive cases reported since March.
The inter-island quarantine is one of Kaua‘i‘s “biggest protective measures that we have right now,” State Department of Health Kaua’i District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman said Wednesday morning.
“Now the disease is on O’ahu and actually increasingly on the other neighbor islands, we’re literally an island oasis with it around us,” Berreman said. “I don’t mean that to be alarming, but it means this is the time to continue all of the things that we have done.”
Berreman gave the Kaua‘i County Council a briefing on the county’s contact tracing capacity and general updates on how the county is faring through the pandemic.
The department currently has 60 District Health Office employees and one Kaua‘i Medical Reserve Corps member trained as contact tracers. Six of these tracers are also trained as case investigators who serve as team leads. An additional five KMRC members are currently being hired with federal funds.
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials recommends 30 contact tracers per 100,000 population.
Active tracer counts vary, Berreman said, but generally, there are four to six daily with case and contact activity.
In July, the county identified 155 contacts and performed over 150 coronavirus tests. This testing helped to identify an additional 20 cases among contacts. Over a three week period, 20 contact tracers were activated daily, the most at any given time to date.
Close contacts are typically household members, caregivers or somebody directly coughed or sneezed on, Berreman explained. Depending on circumstances, friends and colleagues could also be close contacts, but that depends on when the contact was made (within two days of when symptoms occurred) and if it was greater than 15 minutes less than 6 feet apart.
Due to the lack of cases on island, Berreman has offered Kaua‘i contract tracers to O‘ahu for practical training and to help with its surge of cases. Additional outreach the county’s District Health Office has done includes creating a multi-lingual informative video educating the community about COVID-19, and working with the state on informative data points the county uses to track cases.
There are four “control actions” the department follows: prevent, detect, contain and treat, Berreman said.
Prevention includes wearing a mask, despite what some others may say, Berreman said.
“National leadership from the very top-down, since the very beginning of this has done our country a disservice,” Berreman said during the meeting. “We have not had clear leadership from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Later in the day, Berreman joined Kawakami in his daily video.
“Community transmission happens when people gather closely with people other than their household members. The risk is high right now,” Berreman said. “As a community, we need to keep our guard up. We need to follow the existing rules, both to the spirit and the letter.”
“I would ask you to please not focus on looking for loopholes, but rather on doing what we can all do to keep our community safe.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.