Hawaii says 11% of people taking COVID-19 test are positive

  • Carrie Sandlin performs a COVID-19 test May 29 on a person who came through the drive-through testing site across from Hilo Medical Center. KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald file photo

HONOLULU — More than 10% of people tested for COVID-19 in Hawaii have been found to have the disease in the past 24 hours, new data showed Wednesday, underscoring that coronavirus was becoming more widespread in the community.

“It’s basically telling us we’re in a very serious situation from a public health point of view,” Tim Brown, a senior fellow at the research program of the East-West Center in Honolulu, said in a telephone interview.

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Out of 2,518 tests conducted over the past day, 277 or 11% were positive.

“That is not good,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said in a video that Lt. Gov. Josh Green posted on social media.

Adams noted during a news conference with Honolulu’s mayor that Hawaii had previously enjoyed a 5% percent or lower positivity rate. A rate above 10% could overwhelm the health care system, he said.

Brown said hospitalizations have been rising rapidly as the number of positive cases have grown. Given about 6% of positive cases in Hawaii require hospitalization, Brown predicted the state’s hospital capacity will be overwhelmed by the middle of next month. Most of the new cases have been on Oahu.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has reinstated a stay-at-home order that will require gyms and dine-in restaurants to close. It takes effect today.

Brown said he was disturbed that Honolulu didn’t do this sooner after the island recorded triple-digit daily increases in cases.

“After we saw, you know, one week of triple-digit growth, then another week of triple-digit growth, at that point, we basically should have gone into lockdown. Because it was clear at that point that the epidemic was out of control,” Brown said.

Adams, when asked if Oahu should enact a stricter stay-at-home order, said: “Right now, you’re in still a better place than many of the other hot spots around the country and around the nation have been.”

He said a team will look at what’s happening around the city and state and make recommendations and assess whether the stay-at-home order is effective.

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A lot of places have been able to get rates down with similar measures, Adams said.

Associated Press writer Jennifer Sinco Kelleher contributed to this report.

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