Hawaii health officials monitoring new COVID variant, impacts of delta variant


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently named a new “variant of interest” of the coronavirus called the mu variant, also known as B.1.621.

According to state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble, a few cases were detected in the Hawaiian Islands in June 2021, however, the delta variant remains the most concerning COVID strain.

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“We’re really seeing that delta seems to have found its niche here, and that’s still well over 95% of the cases we’re seeing in the state,” Dr. Kemble said on Tuesday. “So our current problems are really driven by delta, not mu.”

During an interview on Wake Up 2day, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the mu variant had been detected in every U.S. state except Nebraska.

“It appears to have peaked in July, although we don’t know that for sure. It came out of Columbia. It seems to evade antibody response to a certain degree,” Green said.

According to WHO’s weekly report, “The mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape.” Since it was first identified in January 2021, WHO said there have been a few sporadic reports of cases of the mu variant and some larger outbreaks in South America and Europe.

Green said the best thing people can still do is to get vaccinated and suggested administering 150,000 shots in the next 30 days to get Hawaii to 70% fully vaccinated. Click here to watch the full interview.

On Tuesday, the Hawaii State Department of Health reported 499 new COVID cases, bringing the state total to 68,764. The state stands at 64.4% of vaccinated residents.

As of August 26, Dr. Kemble said the Health Department has documented 2,419 COVID breakthrough cases, which account for 7% of all cases in the state since January and 0.3% of the fully vaccinated population.

“Part of how we ascertain breakthrough cases is by case investigation,” Dr. Kemble said. “We have to call people and ask them if they’ve been vaccinated, so this is likely an undercount of the true numbers because we don’t reach everyone to find out that information.”

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She added that the more infections there are circulating, the more breakthrough there will be.

“While we do know vaccines work — they’re highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and death — they don’t prevent every infection from occurring,” said Dr. Kemble.

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