Kona cluster grows, DOH says more cases are due to lack of safe practices


HONOLULU (KHON2) — State health officials said new cases continue to be from people not social distancing, not wearing masks, and attending large gatherings.

This as Lt. Governor Dr. Josh Green said a cluster at Kona Community Hospital continues to grow.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lt. Gov Green said the cluster at KCH is at six. Three employees tested positive, and now three patients have also tested positive.

Dr. Scott Miscovich and his team are on Hawaii island, testing everyone at Kona Community Hospital.

“Most of my info on the Kona cluster is that it’s at six people now,” said Lt. Gov Green. “And they are going to test today, comprehensively, the entire facility, and they’re going to have testing on Saturday in the community for people who might have come and gone from the hospital and are worried.”

He said the hospital will be tested again four days from now, and another four days after that, “because they really want to capture any late-blooming infections.”

On Thursday, the DOH said there is no longer a risk associated with the two Oahu gyms where a cluster of 20 cases broke out last week. The DOH said the time has passed for anyone else to have been infected and that during an investigation, all persons who may have been placed at risk are contacted.

However, Green said tracers are already two to three days behind when it comes to tracing because it takes about five days for the virus to incubate. He said more tracers are needed statewide.

“It’s a challenging science,” explained Green. “But that’s why I’m so adamant in having even more contact tracers than you think we would need is because the more we have, the faster we can get to clusters, and the faster we can deploy to the neighbor islands.”

“These challenges exist and one individual case can blossom like at the gym, or the funeral that occurred where 17 came back positive, it can go really fast so we should over resource ourselves. We have the money from the federal government on contact tracing, it’s a lot of work, each case that comes back positive they have to trace anywhere from six to 20 people depending, and when one of those persons tests positive it sets up another and another so that’s the way to stop the disease and it will definitely decrease overall numbers,” Green said.

On Wednesday, the DOH told the Senate Committee on COVID-19 they had 127 contact tracers in place, but Green said that’s not enough.

“It’s nowhere near enough,” he said. “I mean people dispute this but you need to have 30 per 100,000, and in the case of a pandemic that’s surging we need 500 tracers that are helping her [Dr. Park] and Bruce get ahead of this.”

Green said the Kona cluster hits close to home.

“I had friends call from Kona, it’s where I work and have for years, it’s where I lived for 20 years and in that community, many have not been contacted yet because it takes time and its complicated,” he explained. “They’re essentially turning themselves in, from a healthcare perspective, to me to say they want to be traced and whatever DOH may think, there’s so many more people out there who do come into contact with individuals that need to be reached out to and touched, I think we need to help Dr. Park and Bruce more.”

Green said the virus can get out of control fast and it’s imperative to stop it quickly with more tracers.

“It’s the signature piece that allows us to be safer at schools, it allows us to prevent spread we don’t anticipate, and it allows us to have some flexibility with individuals traveling to Hawaii,” he said.

The Department of Health said the community shouldn’t rely heavily on contact tracing and testing, instead residents need to not let their guards down and continue to physical distance and wear a mask to prevent the spread.

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