Missing Data Pushes COVID-19 Counts Artificially Low

August 2, 2020, 12:12 PM HST (Updated August 2, 2020, 12:12 PM)
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People in Hawaii refuse to practice social distancing over the weekend. PC: DOH

COVID-19 cases registered in the double-digits across all islands Sunday, with 45 confirmed statewide. However, the state Department of Health acknowledged Sunday that both numbers are likely low.

Clinical Laboratories of Hawai‘i, a major private laboratory conducting the majority coronavirus tests in the state, reported missing data Saturday and Sunday. But this is not a complete and accurate picture due to the temporary delay in receiving complete data, DOH said in a press release.

“We are missing electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) data from one of the private clinical laboratories, from July 31 to today,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “This is likely a result of recent modifications in data reporting required by the US Department of Health and Human Services. We have advised the affected laboratory to provide manual reporting of data until they’re able to correct the reporting issues. This is impacting our ability to quickly identify and investigate new persons with COVID-19 and to contact trace.”

DOH will likely need to update case numbers from Friday on, the release said.

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All but one of the newly reported cases thus far are on O‘ahu, with one on Maui. In Honolulu, the media reported Saturday on numerous large beach gatherings, including one at Waimea Bay, which involved the promotion of a rock jumping contest. A photo provided by a group that is tracking quarantine violators shows a large crowd of young people atop the popular jumping rock on the west side of the bay. It appears no one is wearing masks or practicing physical distancing.

On Maui, gatherings of more than 10 people were outlawed last week.

“It’s disappointing and dangerous to people’s health for anyone to continue to encourage and actively promote these big groups,” said Dr. Park. “Everyone should avoid large gatherings and crowded places and use proven, common-sense, and simple steps to protect our community from COVID-19.”

Avoiding crowds, wearing face masks, and using physical distancing are all proven methods for preventing COVID-19. Always obtain information from credible sources such as the CDC and DOH for the best actions to protect yourself, your family, friends, and co-workers.

The DOH Disease Outbreak Control Division (DOCD), which Dr. Park leads, is receiving an increasing number of calls related to COVID-19 guidance for businesses, including cleaning and disinfection guidelines and recommended procedures in response to a positive coronavirus case in an employee. Detailed guidance is available online.

People are advised to call 211 for information and guidance on coronavirus. DOH is asking that businesses not call the DOH disease reporting line, as these calls are slowing down investigations and contact tracing efforts.

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