State briefs for February 19

Bill would require reports of school virus numbers

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii Senate bill would require the state Department of Education to publish the number of new coronavirus cases detected at each public school.

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Current regulations require the education department to list weekly COVID-19 case totals by complex area.

The state’s public schools are divided into 15 complex areas, each of which includes two to four school complexes consisting of a high school and elementary and intermediate schools feeding into the high school, the education department website said.

The bill also would require the department to post exact dates of positive COVID-19 tests and the most recent dates of attendance by those who were infected.

Democratic state Sen. Michelle Kidani, who introduced the bill, said reporting cases by complex areas can worry parents, who she said have a right to know whether individual schools have been impacted by the pandemic.

Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Phyllis Unebasami testified against the bill, arguing the change could result in the alienation of students and parents who are suspected of being infected.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary advanced the bill during an online hearing Wednesday.

The measure will move to a final reading in the Senate before crossing to the House.

If passed into law, the updated reporting requirement would go into effect July 1.

Vaping rate by high school students more than doubles

HONOLULU (AP) — A new Hawaii State Department of Health survey indicated the rate of daily vaping among high school students more than doubled over two years.

The Hawaii Youth Risk Behavior Survey results released by the department Tuesday showed the number of Hawaii teens vaping every day between 2017 and 2019 increased from 3.5% to 7.9%.

The survey found 30.6% of Hawaii public high school students said in 2019 they vaped at least once in the previous 30 days, up from 25.5% in 2017.

The state figure was less than the national rate of 32.7% for 2019.

The survey also found a decrease in the use of alcohol and cigarettes and sexual activity among Hawaii high school students.

More than 12,000 students took the survey in 2019, which was only conducted at Hawaii’s public schools.

The survey analysis provided statewide and county data, with additional results by grade level and ethnicity.

“These are not benign products,” said Lola Irvin, administrator of the state health department’s Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division.

“They are inhaling the flavorants, the chemicals, the nicotine, the alcohol and the vegetable oils,” Irvin said. “That’s what they are putting into their lungs.”

Irvin said vaping carries extra risks during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There have been studies done that youth who report vaping are five to seven times more likely to have tested positive for COVID-19, so we’re really concerned about their health,” Irvin said.

The federal survey overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes place every two years.

The anonymous questionnaire covers an array of topics including use of illicit substances, bullying, violence, dietary habits and physical inactivity.

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The national poll takes place at public and private schools, with the responses combined to establish U.S. averages.

A full data release was delayed in part because health officials have been focused on the pandemic response.

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