HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of Health (DOH) is investigating an uptick in COVID cases and clusters linked to multiple social gatherings and restaurants. This is as the highly contagious delta variant continues to spread throughout the state.
According to a DOH estimation, the delta variant accounts for almost all of the COVID cases in the state. They said vaccination is still one of the most effective ways to prevent community spread and many of those linked to clusters were not vaccinated.
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The latest data shows that the delta variant is estimated to make up 93% of Hawaii’s COVID cases, up from 81% from two weeks ago and 55% in July.
“Right now the main point is it’s all delta and the transmissibility is a major factor,” explained Dr. Sarah Kemble, state epidemiologist.
Kemble said lack of social distancing and inconsistent masking are common themes in clusters along with one more thing.
“We often see that the driving factor in these clusters are unvaccinated individuals especially individuals who attend an event or come to work while sick, that’s often the instigating factor in a cluster.”
That is exactly what happened in two clusters at social gatherings.
DOH’s latest cluster report shows 23 cases were linked to a concert at a bar on Oahu. Of those band members and bar employees, 16 people tested positive and only four of them were vaccinated. Seven additional cases were found in household members.
The event was held indoors and band members were sick during the performance. This cluster has also been linked to two other clusters, one at a workplace and at a second concert.
The DOH reported a second cluster at a wedding linked to seventeen cases and one death. Thirteen of those infected, including the person who died, were not vaccinated.
Two attendees with COVID exposed the bride and groom. Attendees reported that masks were not correctly or consistently worn and physical distancing was not practiced. According to DOH, family and friends said they felt a false sense of security because they knew everyone at the wedding.
DOH also reported an uptick in clusters and cases at Oahu restaurants.
The number of clusters doubled from four to 10 and cases tripled from 35 to 97 in the last two weeks.
Hawaii Restaurant Association (HRA) President Greg Maples said he is disappointed the numbers went up, but given the increase in community spread, some cases were expected.
“I think it’s important to remember that, that 97 represents 1.64% of all the cases in the last 14 days. So while the number has tripled, it’s still a very low manageable number,” Maples explained.
“I think clusters are increasing in all settings now,” Kemble said. “We’re seeing cases are increasing in all settings now and restaurants have always been a challenge because of the conditions and under which staff are often working. It’s harder to physically distance. It can be harder to keep your mask on under hot working conditions in the kitchen.”
Maples said restaurants continue to operate under some of the strictest rules, they are doing what they can to prevent the spread.
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“But COVID in Hawaii will not be solved on the backs of just restaurants. We can’t look to restaurants to curtail their business. And to solve the problem because it’s not just a restaurant issue. It’s an entire community issue.”