Hawaii health officials verified another record number of new infections in the islands on Friday, and expect to see more cases in the days to come.

Sixty new cases were recorded Friday, all on Oahu except for one new case on Maui and another Hawaii resident who was diagnosed out of state.

On Thursday, when 55 new cases were reported, Department of Health officials warned more upticks in daily case counts and fatalities could be on the horizon. Oahu has been the center of virus transmission since a second wave of infection began in June.

A team of medical technicians pre-screen residents who showed up for a COVID-19 drive-through testing event on Oahu, HI. (Ronen Zilberman photo Civil Beat)

Medical technicians pre-screen residents at a COVID-19 drive-thru testing event on Oahu in July. The state has broken previous records for the number of new daily cases several times this month.

Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat

Community spread of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that can lead to the COVID-19 disease, is most prevalent on Oahu, according to State Health Director Bruce Anderson. Some new cases reported Friday were among people who were contacts of others who had already been diagnosed with COVID-19, but others are “new, unassociated cases,” he said.

“In contact tracing, we continue to identify cases connected with gatherings or just hanging out with close friends,” Anderson said in a press release. “Until we all recognize the importance of physically distancing from people outside of their households and wearing masks, we face the prospect of even higher numbers.”

The number of cases announced each day fluctuates and reflects when test results are reported to DOH by local laboratories, not necessarily when people started feeling symptoms or caught the virus.

A daily average of about 31 new infections has been confirmed during the past week. On Thursday, Hawaii verified 55 new COVID-19 cases, most of which were on Oahu as well.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said the health department plans to hire more contact tracers to assist with COVID-19 investigations and to reach out to people who may have been exposed and should quarantine or isolate.

“As we have over 400 contact tracers now trained to augment existing staff resources, we have sufficient reserves for that purpose,” said Dr. Sarah Park, State Epidemiologist. “Nevertheless, contact tracing and testing alone will not control the spread of COVID-19. Everyone needs to adhere to the safe distancing recommendations and wear masks when near others. That is the only way we as a community are going to prevent the spread of this very infectious disease.”

The state health department is still collecting random specimens from people who report respiratory symptoms to their doctors as a way to keep tabs on how widespread the virus may be in the community. That sentinel surveillance program is showing a “low level of virus circulation” on Maui and possibly on Hawaii Island as well. Traveling to Oahu from neighbor islands is “becoming a risk,” she said.

Civil Beat tracks COVID-19 cases along with other key data in our virus tracker, which is updated daily at noon.

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