Hawaii is brutally learning that distance doesn’t always offer protection from the coronavirus.
The island state in the Pacific Ocean is now leading America in the rate the coronavirus is spreading, according to KHNL-TV.
Local officials announced this week that Hawaii tops the nation in the coronavirus reproduction rate. The state’s rate, 1.6, means that, on average, every person infected passes the virus along to 1.6 other people.
South Dakota was the next-closest state with a rate of 1.2, and Texas was third at 1.16.
“That is very, very high,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.
“We’re in a very dire situation,” said Dr. Tim Brown, an epidemic tracking expert with the University of Hawaii, according to Honolulu Civil Beat. “We’re seeing COVID spread out throughout the population.”
Brown said the numbers require residents to change their behavior.
“People have to understand we are not in normal circumstances right now,” he said. “We are in a once-in-a-century pandemic.”
So far, that’s been an uphill battle. Hawaii police have issued approximately 1,350 citations to people who have disobeyed orders put in place on Aug. 6 to limit the spread of the disease, according to Newsweek.
Officials noted the outbreak was linked to several clusters, and called upon residents to observe social distancing.
— Governor David Ige (@GovHawaii) August 12, 2020
“The important factor to keep in mind is, community-associated infections continue to be responsible for the surge in COVID-19 cases in the past week and a half. The virus is transmitted though droplets, and that’s why wearing masks and distancing is so important. We must all continue these and other safe practices,” State Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson said, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Hawaii has undergone a major spike in cases this month, with more than 1,300 reported since the start of August.
The state’s rolling, seven-day average of new cases topped 166 this week. The figure was 1.71 two months ago, according to Honolulu Civil Beat. In June, about 1 percent of tests came back positive. That number now is about 5.8 percent.
“Clearly, Hawaii has taken a turn,” said Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, director of Prevent Epidemics, a research team at Resolve to Save Lives, a public health organization.
State action has come under criticism, including a salvo from Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii to beef up contact tracing.
.@GovHawaii This is your responsibility. Your Health Director is keeping hundreds of trained contact tracers ‘on the bench’ because he doesn’t think they’re needed. Meanwhile, we have the highest infection rate in the nation. This is gross negligence. Anderson & Park need to go. https://t.co/4n6FI0uZST
— Tulsi Gabbard ? (@TulsiGabbard) August 11, 2020
The Kokua Council, which advocates for seniors, said the state must do more, citing what it called “ineffective” contact tracing and inadequate testing, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“Urgent action must be taken now, right now,” the group said in a statement.
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