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Big Island's Spike in Cases Due to Community Spread, Not Travel

Hilo Medical Center
Hilo Medical Center

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim says a recent spike in COVID-19 cases on the island is not a result of reopening trans-Pacific or interisland travel. The uptick in cases is due to community spread.

Hawai?i County reported 51 new cases on Sunday – a single-day record total for the island since the pandemic began. Mayor Harry Kim says he’s aware of community concerns that some of these cases may have been brought on by incoming travelers, but he says that’s not the case.

“First of all, none of them were travel-related. All of these places that show the very high amount were strictly local residents,” says Mayor Kim. “None of 'em were travel-related.”

This includes a cluster of about 15 individuals at an apartment complex in Pepe?ekeo and another 23 cases at an affordable housing community on the west side of the Big Island.

Kim says the rise in cases is also the result of the county’s enhanced coronavirus testing strategy. This includes, for example, targeted testing in multi-family housing complexes when an individual in that particular complex tests positive.

Kona state Rep.Nicole Lowen says she and her staff have been meticulously tracking case data in her district. But she says case numbers mean little without the context.

“I wish that the Department of Health would, even if they can’t release names or the names of businesses, that they could say, 'This stemmed out of a birthday party or a church gathering or a work situation,’ just so that residents would understand what kinds of activities are risky,” says Lowen.

She says compliance with mask wearing and social distancing protocols remains a challenge. Lowen hopes the county uses CARES Act funds to strengthen enforcement focused on fighting COVID-19.

A majority of the county’s active COVID-19 cases remains on the Hilo side of the Big Island.

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