HONOLULU (KHON2) — Health officials said the COVID numbers released on Wednesday, May 18 were underreported for a variety of reasons.
The Hawaii State Department of Health’s latest figures showed an average of 925 new daily infections over the last 7-day reporting period.
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“We know that that is a gross undercount, how much of an undercount? Well, we might have five, six, seven times that many cases, new cases every day right now across the state,” said DOH spokesman Brooks Baehr. “That would be an extra 4,500 to 6,500 new cases every day.”
The DOH added home tests and mild infections — where people do not even know they are sick — could be to blame for the undercount. Baehr said local hospitalization rates are nowhere near omicron levels, however.
“During the omicron surge, you know, we saw cases go up like this and then hospitalizations came down with it,” Baehr said as he drew two parallel lines with his hands. “Now we’re seeing cases go up like this, but hospitalizations are down here,” Baehr said while gesturing that hospitalization numbers remain relatively flat.
Baehr said Hawaii’s high vaccination rate is keeping patients out of hospitals, along with a couple other factors.
We’ve got a lot of people with immunity from having previously been infected with COVID. And now we have treatments, these antivirals or the monoclonal antibody treatments that are for people in the high-risk categories.”Brooks Baehr, Hawaii Department of Health spokesman
The DOH is not recommending a return to mandatory masking, but the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center expects case numbers to keep rising.
“That first omicron surge was definitely higher right now, I don’t expect that the second omicron surge of BA.2 is going to get as high as the first surge,” said Jacob Schafer, WCCHC director of infection control. “But we will continue to see the numbers increase for a little while yet.”
Both experts agreed that wearing a good-fitting mask never hurts when you are around others — even if there is no requirement.
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“Don’t wait for government to do that, government is always slow for everything,” Schafer said. “Don’t wait to protect yourself until somebody orders you to do it, Now is the time to do it, to protect yourself, your community and your loved ones.”