Kauai health officials investigating coronavirus clusters, variants


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Kauai District Health Office says multiple clusters of COVID-19 transmission on the island have been traced back to two local restaurants.

Health officials made the announcement on Saturday, May 1, after investigations were conducted over the week of Monday, April 26.

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Kauai District health officer Dr. Janet Berreman says transmission took place at Rob’s Good Times Grill and Troy’s Bar, both in Līhu’e.

“A number of our recent new COVID cases spent time at Rob’s Good Times Grill in Līhu‘e and/or Troy’s Bar in Līhu‘e between April 16 and 29, and we have evidence that disease transmission took place. If you were at Rob’s Good Times Grill or Troy’s Bar from Friday, April 16 through Thursday April 29, you may have been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19, and we encourage you to get tested as soon as possible.”

Kauai District health officer Dr. Janet Berreman

Officials say infectious individuals also attended the ‘Ekolu Mea Nui drive-in concert at Vidinha Stadium in Līhu‘e on April 24 and the Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach Resort Brunch Babes show in Kapa‘a on Saturday, April 17, or Sunday, April 18.

Testing is available on Sunday, May 2, at Wilcox Medical Center. Kauai health officials say the new COVID-19 cases reported Saturday are considered community-acquired.

Kauai went from having the lowest test positivity rate in the state during the week of Monday, April 5, to the highest at 3.2% on Saturday, May 1. That is higher than Oahu and Hawaii Island combined.

Dr. Berreman says cases were anticipated to pop up once the island re-joined Safe Travels, but not at such a fast rate.

In April, many Kauai residents began traveling and island-hopping once the island re-joined the state’s Safe Travels program, allowing passengers to bypass quarantine once they returned home.

Some residents unknowingly came back with the virus and some came back with more contagious strains.

“We knew that when we reopened to Safe Travels that we were losing a significant added layer of safety that had helped keep our island safe over the last year, and we knew we would have more disease, we hoped that it wouldn’t rise so high so quickly,” Dr. Berreman said.

The UK and California variants have already been detected on the Garden Isle. The island is awaiting lab results on other samples to see if there are other strains contributing to the spread.

“I don’t expect it to be anything super unusual, I think that we’re going to see more of what we’re seeing most places. So we’re going to see more of what we’re seeing in California and more of what we’re seeing on Oahu and Maui, because that’s where our travel happens to and from and remember this is our local residents, primarily. So, it’s where our people are traveling, and a lot of that is just inter Island and then it tends to be West Coast,” she explained.

Kauai leads the state in vaccines per population and has seen an increase in demand after the recent uptick in cases.

“The physician that I work with a lot of the Kaiser clinic here said as soon as the cases went up, they began to see an uptick in requests for appointments for vaccines,” Dr. Berreman said.

The island has also seen a big jump in COVID-19 testing as well. Dr. Berreman explained that the island was averaging about 60 to 70 tests per day and then that number jumped to about 350 per day on Wednesday.

The County of Kauai is hosting free COVID-19 testing all weekend and encourages residents to get tested as the virus spreads in the community.

Kauai has been in the least restrictive tier for months and has a tier system in place similar to Honolulu’s.

“Our numbers are certainly indicating that we’re going to meet the criteria for going into tier three this coming week if not into tier two,” Dr. Berreman said. “So, we’re in conversations with the mayor about what makes the most sense to do, I do think we’re going to have to make some changes, we are going to need to limit spread here.”

She says discussions are ongoing about modifying the current tier structure and officials are taking vaccines and variants into account.  

“We really encourage people to be vaccinated so that whatever additional restrictions may need to go in place, they don’t need to last as long as they did in many places in the past. We’re at a very critical juncture, and it’s very concerning,” she said.

Dr. Berreman says the majority of active cases on Kauai are among non-vaccinated residents.

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