HONOLULU (KHON2) — The state has been investigating clusters on Oahu and on Molokai.
Classified as essential, the state says construction workers often travel and work in uncomfortable environments that can be hard to social distance.
The Health Department (DOH) investigated a cluster of 26 cases associated with a construction site on Oahu in April. The report states 10 confirmed and probable cases were identified among 35 workers. One had to be hospitalized. In addition, there were 16 confirmed and probable cases among their household members.
According to the state, masks were required but workers reported removing them because of uncomfortable conditions inside the building. They also reported not being able to social distance while working and say they did not practice being apart during lunch.
“Construction work often requires maintained physical exertion so hard breathing. It can get hot and that makes it uncomfortable to wear masks,” said Brooks Baehr of the DOH. “Construction workers also often work in tight quarters and sometimes indoors where there’s not great ventilation, and that can also lead to increased transmission, and that’s apparently what happened on Oahu.”
Health officials on Molokai are currently investigating a cluster of 19 cases associated with hospital construction. The first case was a construction worker who traveled to the island. KHON2 has been told the cluster size is expected to increase. Masks were reportedly being used, but officials say there is growing evidence that the risk of exposure might have been in social settings.
“Unfortunately, that wider community transmission has already happened. We now have 19 cases related to that construction site. And it looks like it has bled over to a smaller cluster at a restaurant where we have five cases. So on Molokai a total of 24 cases,” said Baehr.
Beahr says of the 19 cases, six are construction workers while the rest are community and household contacts.