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Sunday, October 25, 2020
Hawai'i Tourism Reopening Strategy: Make COVID Positivity Numbers Look Good
By Andrew Walden @ 10:08 PM :: 3993 Views :: Tourism, COVID-19

by Andrew Walden

Back in May, Alan Oshima, Ige’s COVID recovery “navigator” told reporters, “we have one chance to reopen and to re-brand Hawai'i as the safest place on earth, and we should do it right.”

But the DoH nest of butt-covering bureaucrats blew that chance and Hawai'i lapsed into a second COVID upsurge.

Now Hawai’i is trying again—with a little help from a friend.

Normally Hawai'i DoH records 2,000 to 4,000 COVID tests per day.  But, on Oct 7, HawaiiCOVID19.com added 131,999 new tests to the total.

It wasn’t easy getting an explanation from DoH.  But after several days back and forth, Joint Information Center (JIC) spokesperson Krystal Kawabata told us:

“… the JIC/HawaiiCOVID19.com made the transition from unique individuals tested to total tests which resulted in an increase in the total number of tests.” 

The ‘total tests’ number likely includes health care workers and others who are being tested multiple times. 

Presuming a batch of 131,999 previously unreported tests conducted over a period of weeks was rolled in to the total with the Oct 7 report; Did the omission of these tests create an artificially high positivity rate?

“…the method of using ‘unique individuals tested’ did bias the longitudinal estimate of the percent positivity upwards since that methodology would exclude persons with a recent negative test who had ever been previously tested.”

Translation: "Yes."

By the same token, inclusion of these re-test results from October 7 onwards is now lowering Hawai'i’s COVID positivity rate.

Why does this matter?

The State has ‘Impact Levels’ which are being followed by Sister Isle counties—and these are not fixed to any specific positivity rate.  But Honolulu and the Department of Education have both adopted reopening plans which, controlled by the positivity rate, presumably take politics out of the equation by ‘moving the smokestack’ to DoH. 

Honolulu was at ‘Tier 1’ when over 5% positivity, but is now at ‘Tier 2” as long as it can stay between 2.5% and 5%.  If Honolulu drops below 2.5%, it can shift to ‘Tier 3’.  At each tier, more businesses are allowed to reopen. 

DoE policy is outlined in the Star-Advertiser, October 24, 2020: “If over two weeks, the 7-day average daily case rate is 2 or less per 100,000 population, and the positivity rate is less than 1% of tests given, schools can consider returning fully to in-person learning. On the other end of the spectrum, if the case average is 15.5 or higher, and the positivity rate greater than 7.5%, students must learn from home.”

Jump-started by the October 7 shift to ‘total tested’, Hawai'i’s reopening strategy becomes the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone.  Barring some major COVID upsurge, as more and more tourists dilute the testing pool with ultra-low positivity tests, Hawai'i tourism will gradually build until it rides a wave of vaccinations right up on to Waikiki Beach.

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