Health officials suspect Delta behind uptick in cases

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — For the second straight day, the state is seeing COVID-19 case numbers in the triple digits.

The last time that occurred was in early May.

On Sunday the state reported 102 new COVID-19 cases, down from the 114 reported on Saturday.

“It looks like this is the early part of a surge after July 4,” said Lt. Governor Dr. Josh Green, Hawaii COVID-19 healthcare liaison. “Hopefully, it won’t be too severe.”

The state health department is expected to release information on the highly transmissible Delta variant, along with how many detected cases there are in the state, sometime this week.

KHON2 asked Green if he would be surprised if Delta has already taken hold in Hawaii.

“I’m confident it has,” he said. “I think it’s happening everywhere. The Delta variant is much more infectious.”

It is still unknown if the Delta variant increases severe illness, but health officials say vaccines are proving to work against it, keeping fully vaccinated people out of the hospital.

On Friday, state health director Dr. Libby Char said of the 116 COVID hospitalizations in June, more than 96 percent of patients were not fully vaccinated.

“I had someone write me some pretty nasty stuff today, saying that I should stop recommending vaccinations, and I told that person: ‘consider what the impact is on the 48 people in the hospital,’” Green said. “Those individuals are very sick, and some of them were unable to get vaccinated, and it’s getting worse for them.”

“The Delta variant is much more transmissible among people who are not protected,” explained Dr. Melinda Ashton, Hawaii Pacific Health pediatrician. “So, the unvaccinated among us, those who can’t get vaccinated or choose not to are at risk of catching COVID more easily now than they were before the Delta variant appeared.”

Lt Governor Green said about a third of the state is at risk of catching COVID or, more specifically, the Delta variant, including about 216,000 keiki who are not eligible to get vaccinated.

“We are seeing a lot more cases in children than we did many months ago,” said Kauai Dr. Warren Sparks. “They’re not getting very sick which is great news, although we have one who is hospitalized and quite ill.”

“People have this idea that kids don’t get sick with COVID. They certainly can get infected,” Dr. Ashton explained. “We are seeing some children with a significant illness that end up in the hospital.”

She said vaccinated households are already doing their part to keep their children safe but encourages mask wearing in children over the age of two.

“Being careful about who you go and hang out with as a family. If you’re with other folks who may not be as highly vaccinated as your family, just being cautious about possible exposure in those ways. Doing the activities outside instead of inside. Things like that,” she said.

“Even for vaccinated people, there’s that slight risk of you catching the virus, and it won’t make you very sick, but you could bring it home to a child as well or immune compromised person in your home or kupuna if they’re not vaccinated, and it can be life-changing. They could be devastated,” Dr. Sparks added.

FDA approval for vaccinations for children under 12 is expected to come in the fall, but an official date has not been announced at this time.

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