Probable coronavirus cases now included in Hawaii’s count

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The number of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii jumped by 1,600 cases overnight, but these are not new infections.

The Department of Health has kept record of probable COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and it is just now adding it to the official count.

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Hawaii’s cases went from 33,889 on Tuesday, May 18, to 35,585 cases on Wednesday, May 19. Acting state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble says positive results from antigen tests will be added as probable cases until the possible positive result is confirmed through a PCR nose swap test.

“Probable case is defined by antigen test, is something that’s becoming a more common practice,” Kemble said. “It’s important for us to be able to capture what’s actually going on with the COVID pandemic, a complete picture of that includes these probable cases.”

On average, the DOH has recorded about 10 to 20 of these cases per week. The cases are now broken down into two columns, one for confirmed cases another for probable cases.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green says the two columns can help avoid confusion from residents who are accustomed to only counting confirmed positive cases.

“I spent an hour on the phone last night with Dr. Kemble,” Green said. “I did make sure that she understood that people out in the community have gotten accustomed for the last 15 months to how we’ve done this will have some concerns.”

Dr. Warren Sparks, an emergency physician on Kauai, says antigen tests are more likely to provide a false positive, therefore they are counted as a probable positive case. He says people living under the same roof as a known positive person are also considered a probable case.

Sparks said, “Maybe other people in the household has tested positive, but in this particular index case either did not get tested or tested negative, or had a positive antigen test which the health department doesn’t count.” 

Sparks says the additional probable cases should not have an impact on everyday life, but it does provide more data.

Green said separating antigen test results from confirmed COVID-19 cases may benefit the counties reopening tiers.

“In fact, it could cause the positivity rate to plummet,” Green said. “If people flood the market with relatively low quality antigen tests, I want that to be considered and separated.”

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