HONOLULU (KHON2) — Due to the rise in COVID cases and increased demand for testing, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) announced changes in case investigation and what data they will be reporting.

The DOH will temporarily suspend the processing and reporting of negative test results starting Sunday, Jan. 16, to speed up the processing and reporting of positive COVID-19 cases — which will allow for accurate positive case counts. Individuals who test negative will still receive their results, however.

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According to the DOH, there have been a large amount of both positive and negative cases that surveillance systems were unable to process and report. By halting the reporting of specific data sets, the DOH’s data collection and reporting system will be able to accurately process thousands of positive tests being recorded at labs daily.

“Because there’s such a huge volume of testing data that’s coming in, it’s kind of slowing the system down as it gets processed, and so we’re going to pause on processing the negative test results temporarily”

Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char

Additionally, statewide and community positivity rates will not be available because all tests — positive and negative — need to be processed in order to determine them.

While the reporting of these data sets is temporarily paused, the DOH stated they will look for other ways to “accurately report positive cause counts and percent positivity regardless of testing volume.”

“Now that we’ve turned off the negative case stream, we do anticipate that more of those results will start to catch up, but it’s hard to predict exactly how many. I think it’ll probably be over the next four to five days that we see that case, the positives that would have been in there filter in and catch up.”

Dr. Sarah Kemble, State Epidemiologist

According to the DOH, the way cases are investigated will also be needing a change because the state’s 378 contract tracers are not able to keep up with the growing number of coronavirus cases — there were about 48,000 cases in the first two weeks of 2022.

“It would be unrealistic to think our 378 contact tracers could get in touch with all those people. So, we are focusing on providing general and setting-specific guidance, and on cluster investigations that will help protect vulnerable populations,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble.

The DOH said these contract tracers will focus on COVID clusters in relation to schools and high-risk settings, like long-term care facilities.

The DOH hosted a news conference on Saturday, Jan. 15, to discuss these developments.

Watch the entire conference below:

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