DOH: Lab confirms community spread of Delta variant in Hawaii

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Department of Health’s State Laboratories Division (SLD) confirms the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.617.2, also known as the Delta variant, is spreading in the state.

The first known case of the variant was confirmed on June 14 after an Oahu resident who recently traveled to Nevada tested positive.

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Since then, there have been three cases of the Delta variant associated with travel from the continental United States, two of which are on Oahu and one on Hawaii Island.

Now, the State Laboratories Division has identified the Delta variant in an Oahu resident with no history of travel.

“Given what we know about the Delta variant and the cases already identified in Hawaii, we expect to detect additional cases in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, the acting State Epidemiologist.

“So we’ve seen our first case of community transmission. Absolutely we expect to see it spread further and probably the pattern is that it will double in its prevalence every two weeks,” said Dr. Edward Desmond, State Laboratories Division Administrator.

The Department of Health is investigating to determine the extent of household and community transmission.

Those who contracted COVID-19 caused by the Delta variant have been symptomatic and none have been hospitalized. The DOH said only one of the four people was fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

The Delta variant, which was first detected in India, now makes up approximately 10% of all cases in the U.S.

“I think the Delta variant is the most concerning to us in public health, for the population, because of how quickly we see it spreading, including in some jurisdictions where there are pretty high vaccination coverage rates,” said Dr. Kemble.

The state says it examines 50 to 100 specimens a week and has developed a method to find variants in a timely manner. That’s not going to increase even though the Delta variant is now here in the islands. Dr. Kemble says the number one thing we can do is move ahead with vaccination.

“If we can really hit those coverage targets that we’ve been talking about, get to 70% completely vaccinated as quickly as possible, that’s really what’s going to do the most to protect our community against this, and other variants that might emerge,” she said.

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