HONOLULU (KHON2) — Omicron might be a milder variant than delta and doctors think people might be more lax thinking they will not get severely ill if they catch it, but delta never went away.

In the last variant report, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) said omicron quickly overtook delta as the dominant variant. The DOH believed 33% of cases were delta, opposed to 66% omicron.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised their variant report findings during the week of Dec. 27, 2021 which said that delta still made up 41.1% of all United States cases.

“I actually think that delta is still driving a lot of the hospitalizations,” explained Dr. Michael Daignault, Los Angeles ER doctor.”We still have a fair amount of delta circulating, I mean, we never got to a zero level of circulating virus.”

The bottom line is that delta is still around, and experts know it causes severe illness and can put people in the hospital. The concern is people believe omicron will not make them sick, so they let their guard down.

“We’re seeing a double punch. Basically, omicron is driving this exponential number of cases, but at the same time in the United States, delta is driving hospitalizations.”

Dr. Michael Daignault, Los Angeles ER doctor

As of Sunday, Jan. 2, there were 25,236 active COVID-cases reported in the state; many believe the number is much higher due to at-home tests which are not reported to the DOH. Hospitalizations on Sunday were at 175.

“We had just 11,000 active cases before with delta, and we had 448 people in the hospital,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green about Hawaii’s coronavirus surge during summer 2021.

Health officials are worried that the number could increase over the next few weeks after New Year’s Eve and holiday gatherings.

Experts believe omicron does not impact the lungs like delta, and Dr. Daignault said omicron symptoms include sore throat, headache, cough and runny nose.

“That was a big difference from delta, which actually presented more with stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever,” Dr. Daignault added.

Experts have also said the loss of taste and smell is less common in people with omicron.

Health officials said a person with two mRNA doses has a 50% chance of not being hospitalized, but a booster helps protect people further.

“50%, that’s a coin flip, but if you can get that booster that brings it up to 88%,” said Dr. Daignault.

Dr. Daignault added that those who test positive for COVID-19, then they should monitor their symptoms daily.

“If you still have symptoms, you’re probably contagious, you’re probably infectious, do not go back to work and do not go back to school,” Dr. Daignault continued. “But if you make it to day five, and you don’t have symptoms, and you can do a rapid antigen test, and it’s negative, you can end your isolation.”

Although experts predict January will be a troubling month with infections, Dr. Daignault said omicron could push the U.S. out of the pandemic because data is showing people infected with omicron had protection against delta.

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“If you have high numbers of cases of omicron, just blowing through the population, it’s going to give protection against reinfection with delta, which is the more severe one, right? And so, you end up with broad swaths of immunity and that also keeps people out of the hospital from reinfection with the more severe variant. That’s what we’re hoping is viral evolution towards just an endemic circulating virus that doesn’t cause severe illness,” Dr. Daignault explained.