Big Island COVID-19 infections plummet

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald From left, Ruth Tosie, Taquila Sambrana and Chaz Siu with TrueCare24 talk while waiting for people to test at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022.

New COVID-19 cases on the Big Island dropped to the single digits Wednesday for the first time since December as the omicron surge continues to weaken.

The Department of Health reported four new infections on the Big Island, a sharp decrease from the 49 reported Tuesday. Statewide, 203 new cases were reported Wednesday, also continuing a downward trend over the last several weeks.

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The last time there was a single-digit number of Big Island cases was Dec. 21, when nine cases were reported.

The difference is stark. Only 30 days ago, the omicron surge had not yet reached its peak, but there were thousands of cases being reported daily throughout the state.

On Jan. 15, 5,927 new cases were reported statewide, with 720 on the Big Island. The omicron surge would reach its peak three days later, when 6,180 cases were reported statewide and 834 in Hawaii County.

Since Jan. 15, there have been 61,909 cases statewide, according to the DOH, and 6,809 on the Big Island.

The Big Island has averaged 72 new cases per day over the past seven days.

Despite the decline, 12 new deaths were reported Wednesday, bringing the statewide death toll to 1,274.

In Hawaii schools, case numbers also have declined commensurately. Over the last seven days, 813 cases were reported among Department of Education students and staff. During that time, Waikoloa School had the most cases on the Big Island, with 12 reported during the week.

Waiakea Intermediate School reported 11 cases, and Hilo Union Elementary School reported 10 cases in the last week. All other Big Island schools reported fewer than 10 cases in the last seven days.

DOH spokesman Brooks Baehr said the declining numbers are obviously good news, and attributed the extremely low Big Island numbers on Wednesday to a decreasing transmission rate. But, he noted, because home test results are not counted in the DOH’s numbers, the increase in people using home test kits may contribute to some extent to the low numbers.

Activity at county-operated testing sites on the Big Island has decreased recently as well.

“We’ve seen spikes, highs and lows and everything in between,” George F. Stowe III, testing site manager for Hawaii County Civil Defense at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, said Wednesday. “We’re seeing the high peak we once had come down and even itself out.

“The future of testing is up to the powers that be. We go off statistics, historical data from the trends of the pandemic, upcoming social events, and gauge what we’ll do next week based on those factors.”

But, Stowe said, testing sites won’t stop being active anytime soon.

“We’ve seen some steadies come by, mostly people who need to do weekly testing for the mandates,” Stowe said. “We’ve gotten to know and love a lot of people. We’re happy to be there for them. Whether it’s 200 people or two people coming, we’ll be here. If we’re needed, we’ll keep being here for the health and welfare of the community.”

Email Michael Brestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com. Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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