Lawmakers question whether more contact tracers are needed as more cases linked to clusters found


HONOLULU (KHON2) — On Tuesday, 22 new cases of COVID-19 were reported. The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) officials say many cases are tied to clusters. Some of the new clusters identified deal with family gatherings or hanging out with friends. In some cases, people still gathered with others, even when they knew they were feeling sick.

A recently discovered COVID-19 cluster involved a group of construction workers that got together for a pau hana gathering. Health officials say one person attended this gathering while feeling ill.

Officials also say gatherings from Father’s Day, the Fourth of July, and even birthday parties are all leading to new cases, which can have a ripple effect.

Kamaaina Kids announced Tuesday it is shutting down its Aiea program after a child with the program tested positive over the weekend. Officials say the child’s mother may have been part of another cluster. They say she kept the child home since the day the child got tested.

Contact tracing has been a key tool in identifying potential cases, but Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said we can do better.

“[The Department of Health] have said they have 170 to 180 contact tracers that have been occupied. I don’t know how many of those people are full time, but they all need to be full time,” said Green. ”But we have to have 500 full time contact tracers, because as you’ve seen in the last few days, we went from 42 to 23 cases, and when you have those kinds of numbers and they add up like that, you have to be looking under every rock, around every corner to make sure you trace every individual that could be positive.”

When asked Monday whether the state had enough contact tracers, Dr. Bruce Anderson said it did, but didn’t give specifics on how many positive COVID-19 cases it would take to be unable to effectively contact trace. That has some state lawmakers concerned.

On Wednesday, a senate committee will meet with the Department of Health to discuss the matter.

“We’re going to have to ask the department, what that number will be so that they have the resources to staff up to that point. Contain local spread and handling the influx of visitors,” said Senator Donovan Dela Cruz.

Aside from increasing contact tracing, Dela Cruz said the senate will also be looking at the Department of Health’s plan for increasing testing capacity and screening at the airport in the Senate meeting Wednesday.

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