Big Island Coronavirus Updates

High Volume of Tests Stressing State’s Data Collection System

By Tom Hasslinger
January 15, 2022, 5:00 PM HST
* Updated January 15, 3:02 PM
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A influx of testing is taking a toll on the state’s data collection system.

The Hawai‘i Department of Health stated Saturday, Jan. 15 that it will temporarily stop reporting specific data sets on Sunday, Jan.16, so its data collection and reporting system can continue to accurately process the thousands of positive tests recorded at laboratories daily.

DOH systems have not been able to process the large volume of positive and negative cases in recent days. As a result, thousands of cases, both positive and negative, have not been reported.

In order to expedite the processing and reporting of positive cases, DOH will suspend the processing of negative cases, which will allow for accurate positive case counts.

“I don’t think we’re in for a downturn right now,” said Hawai’i Department of Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char said during a media briefing Saturday on the number of tests the system is trying to process. “It’s kind of slowing the system down.”

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The state has handled 48,000 tests in the last couple of weeks, authorities said. By holding back the negative results, it means the state won’t be able to accurately report the testing positivity rate during the next two weeks or so.

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Positivity rates and some data sets will not be available while DOH assesses alternative ways to accurately report on both positive case counts and percent positivity regardless of testing volume,” the DOH stated in a news release.

Record COVID-19 case counts have been recorded nearly daily recent weeks. Nearly 6,000 new cases were reported statewide on Saturday.

Also under strain with the volume of work are the state’s contract tracers. They’ll shift their focus on concentrating on active clusters while promoting awareness and guidance measures.

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Contact tracers are focusing their attention on priority groups including COVID-19 clusters associated with schools and high-risk settings such as long-term care facilities.

“We have reported roughly 48,000 COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks. It would be unrealistic to think our 378 contact tracers could get in touch with all those people. So, we are focusing on providing general and setting-specific guidance, and on cluster investigations that will help protect vulnerable populations,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble.

Char added that the number of cases Hawai‘i is experiencing is unprecedented, leading to a tremendous demand for testing.

“As testing data flows through the electronic reporting system, the system is stressed. Our essential DOH employees are also wrestling with tremendous challenges,” she said. “We must adapt to address these circumstances.”

“Everyone can be part of the solution. Wear well-fitting masks. Don’t take them off near anyone from outside your household. Avoid large crowds. And if you have COVID symptoms or think you have been exposed, isolate yourself immediately. Isolating yourself to slow transmission is absolutely necessary,” Char added.

Vaccination and testing options are available at hawaiicovid19.com.

Tom Hasslinger
Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as the managing editor for West Hawaii Today and deputy editor for The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. He's worked for over 15 years as a reporter for the Oahu-based Civil Beat news outlet, as well as in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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