East-West Center Disease Specialist Warns Hawaiʻi Residents: ‘This is Not the Time to Take Chances’

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HONOLULU (Aug. 11, 2020) -- Dr. Tim Brown, an internationally renowned epidemic tracking expert at the East-West Center, has a stark message for Hawai‘i residents.

“If you're thinking of going out to eat, don’t,” Brown warns. “If you think you're safe at a gym, you aren’t. If you're getting together with those from other households, including extended family, without full masking and distancing, remember you are taking on the risk of everyone they have been exposed to in the last two weeks. The bottom line is that it is not safe out there, and this is not the time to take chances.”

cases per day, March-August, showing steeply rising tail

A leading authority on tracking and preventing HIV/AIDS worldwide, Brown served on a COVID-19 advisory task force for Hawai‘i and has spoken frequently to the media about the pandemic. He has also co-authored several articles with University of Hawa‘i Economic Research Organization analysts recommending policies to tamp down coronavirus spread and start rebuilding the economy. Today he points with concern to the 1,193 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed on O‘ahu in the last week alone.

“It’s time to take this really seriously.”

“Our test positivity rate has been rising at 0.3% per day,” Brown emphasizes, indicating that community spread of the virus is surging. Given the CDC’s presumed ratio of 10 infections for every case detected, with over 2,000 active cases today there may be as many as 20,000 people in Hawai‘i with active infections, mostly on O‘ahu. “That’s roughly one in every 50 people you come across,” Brown says.

He points out that the more researchers learn about COVID-19, “the more we realize it's not just the fatalities among the elderly, but it's also severe illness among some of the young, heart attacks and strokes due to clotting, and diminished lung capacity and neurological damage that may last a lifetime. This is not just a respiratory infection; it is a systemic one that in more severe cases attacks multiple organ systems.”

Besides avoiding all social gatherings for now, Brown offers some other simple tips to stay safer:

  • Go out only when you really need to, and wear a mask when you do. Consistent mask wearing is proven to reduce infection rates dramatically.
  • If someone outside your household comes toward you without a mask, move swiftly away from them.
  • Even while wearing masks, keep at least six feet away from others, ensure your mask is covering both your mouth and nose, and don't pull down your mask to talk.
  • If a store is too crowded, go home and come back later when you can distance properly.
  • If someone tries to get in an elevator with you without a mask, firmly tell them to either put on a mask or don’t enter. If they won't do it, get out yourself and report it to building management.

“Please be aware of how much COVID is in our O‘ahu environment now,” Brown exhorts, “and do these things to keep us all safe.”

trend of positive tests showing growth rate of 0.9897 as of August 7
Percent of COVID-19 tests positive over the last week in Hawaiʻi

For more COVID-19 analysis by Dr. Tim Brown and EWC: