The Perfect Enemy | Hawaii Health Department warns of COVID-19, flu outbreaks at high school proms - Honolulu Star-Advertiser
May 26, 2022

Hawaii Health Department warns of COVID-19, flu outbreaks at high school proms – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Hawaii Health Department warns of COVID-19, flu outbreaks at high school proms  Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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The Hawaii Department of Health today issued a special edition COVID-19 cluster report regarding an outbreak of both the coronavirus and Type A influenza connected to a high school prom on Oahu.

DOH had ceased issuing the biweekly cluster reports in early January, but will issue one if special circumstances warrant it.

“With case counts on the rise, the state has noticed an uptick of clusters associated with large school events,” said DOH in the cluster report.

Health officials said in April, the high school contacted DOH for assistance when 37 students who attended the prom reported being sick with common respiratory symptoms.

More than 300 individuals, including students and chaperones, attended the prom. DOH was able to confirm that six tested positive for COVID-19 and four tested positive for influenza A.

One tested positive for both COVID-19 and influenza A.

Of the six that tested positive for COVID, one was unvaccinated, four were vaccinated with the primary series, and one was vaccinated and boosted.

Most of them — 35 of the 37 with symptoms — took either a home COVID-19 test kit or went to a laboratory to get tested. DOH said the number of infections was likely higher than reported due to limited testing.

About 57% of prom attendees had received a primary series of COVID vaccine, according to health officials. Those who went to the prom reported that mask use and social distancing were not practiced nor enforced.

Health officials recommend that those attending large, school gathering such as proms stay up to date on their COVID-19 and flu vaccinations, and not attend if feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms. Some ways to mitigate an outbreak are to test for COVID beforehand, maintain masking indoors and social distancing, and to make sure the gathering venue has good ventilation.

Masking upon return to school will help prevent subsequent spread, DOH said, so as not to disrupt in-person learning.

“Celebrations and gatherings are safest when all participants are up to date with vaccinations,” said DOH. “Influenza activity has been increasing throughout the state and coinfections with influenza and COVID-19 or other respiratory pathogens can occur.”

Health officials also investigated another cluster in April involving 16 COVID-19 cases associated with a high school prom on Oahu.

This prom had more than 600 in attendance, including both students and chaperones. A total of 10 tested positive for the coronavirus, while another three experienced symptoms and were epidemiologically linked to the outbreak.

Officials identified another three secondary cases among household contacts.

At this prom, mask use was required indoors except during food service.

DOH says both schools required prom attendees to be vaccinated with the primary series of COVID vaccines or to submit a negative test taken within 48 hours of the event.

Both proms were held indoors, which can contribute to higher risk of COVID transmission, DOH said.

As the academic year comes to a close, many of Hawaii’s public schools are imposing their own COVID-19 health and safety rules for events — some of which are stricter than nonschool public events. But the rules can vary widely from school to school.

On Wednesday, DOH reported 4,249 new COVID-19 infections over the previous week, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 252,654 cases.

The state’s 7-day average of new cases was reported at 485, the sixth weekly increase in a row. The state’s average positivity rate, meanwhile, jumped to 11.5%, and was the seventh weekly increase in a row.