Second highest spike in cases since pandemic began; Waipahu cluster linked to a pastor

Coronavirus

Correction: The Department of Health issued a correction for the locations listed associated with the 27 cases. That change has been updated in the article below.

Five of the cases at the two Community Care Family Foster Homes were in Wahiawa, not Waianae.


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Department of Health announced 27 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, June 19.

It’s the highest spike the state has seen since early April and the second-highest number of new cases since the pandemic started. The highest was 34 on April 1, 2020.

[RELATED: DOH reveals more on 27 new COVID-19 cases, state total rises to 789]

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said the surge is “concerning.”

“Right now we’re seeing the uptick because we changed our policies and a lot of people are out and they relaxed a little bit too much. Maybe they haven’t worn their mask as often,” said Green.

But he said they did expect surges as the state gradually reopens.

Out of the 27 cases, 25 were on Oahu, one on Maui and Kauai had its first case in nearly 10 weeks.

According to State Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson, at least six of the new cases are linked to a cluster in a religious group that was meeting in a private home in Waipahu.

“This was a faith-based group. They were meeting there regularly. The pastor in this institution was a case and did meet with constituents, and probably family and others, regularly in that setting,” Anderson explained.

State epidemiologist Sarah Park said that the recent cases in that area are all connected.

“The cases that we had been identifying in the Waipahu area — all of them — we’ve been able to link back to this one individual,” Park said.

Anderson said DOH contact tracing identified more than 30 possible contacts associated with the gatherings. Twelve members in one family that tested positive last week are also linked to the church gatherings. DOH did not release the name of the pastor or the church he is associated with.

“This is a serious reminder that we all need to avoid gathering where physical distancing is not occurring. Please remember you need to avoid enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded areas with groups of people in close-contact spaces,” Anderson said.

There were also a handful of cases in two West side care facilities.

“Five cases in Wahiawa are from two community care foster family homes located on the same property. Again this is a situation where a large number of people are living together,” he explained.

Of the remaining cases: six are associated with a housing complex in Waianae, three cases in Honolulu, one in Pearl City, and one in Kailua.

Anderson said all of the cases seem to be community spread, only one could possibly be associated with travel.

“Moving forward our lifestyle choices will affect everyone in the state and I urge everyone to pay attention to the physical distancing and other basic hygiene requirements.”

While officials are concerned about the spike, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said there’s no cause for alarm, yet.

“People shouldn’t be too afraid — we’re doing okay. We have not seen more use of our hospitals. Use of our ICU beds are actually down a little bit. Use of ventilators are down slightly so we have not seen a surge in our healthcare crisis need though we have seen a surge in the number. These are all things to factor in. It’s okay to simmer and have a couple of top days and then it comes down a little bit. What’s not okay is if (the number of cases) were to run away from us. If it were to go 50, 70, 90. That’s a sign that we would have to quickly put the clamps down because that could reach a catastrophic epidemic proportion fast,” Green explained.

He said if that happens the state would likely reinstate rules restricting some things. But he said he is hoping people do their part wearing their masks and social distancing so it won’t get to that point.


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