HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) recorded 181 COVID-related deaths in September — it’s the highest death toll connected to the virus since the onset of the pandemic. Officials are hopeful the death toll will decline as COVID cases trend lower.

DOH spokesperson Brooks Baehr said the high number of deaths this month is a result of the lag time associated with the delta variant.

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“Without question, this month — September 2021 — has been our worst as far as reporting COVID deaths,” Baehr said. “We’ve reported 181 COVID deaths in the month of September, and we have one more day to go. This has just been a horrible, horrible month.”

July and August were among the months with the highest daily COVID cases in the state. Not everyone beat the virus out of the thousands infected.

“About 52% of the cases we’ve had throughout the pandemic have occurred just since the 1st of July. That’s the effect of the delta variant,” Baehr said.

The DOH is still collecting data on the number of deaths from fully vaccinated people. The last time the department reported breakthrough case deaths was Aug. 26, with eight deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Those who have died also had underlying health conditions.

“Perhaps most of us have one of these underlying conditions. There’s such a wide range of them,” Brooks said. “If you are a smoker or were a smoker at any point in your life, that’s considered to be an underlying condition. High blood pressure, that’s an underlying condition, even pregnancy.”

The high number of COVID related deaths will likely continue to be reported in the coming weeks before things turn around.

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“As the case rate continues to come down, we will be reporting fewer and fewer deaths,” Baehr said, “but that’s going to take some time. Let’s not forget we’re still averaging 320 daily cases.”