HONOLULU (KHON2) — The state is still waiting on two pending results of the highly contagious B1.1.7 UK variant.
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“It looks like one very well, maybe negative altogether,” Lt. Governor Josh Green said on Sunday.
Two cases have been confirmed in Hawaii so far. Both cases reportedly had no travel history and did not have contact with one another.
Green says the two cases suggest the strain is spreading in the community, but because people have been doing a good job following COVID-19 guidance, the state’s case numbers and positivity rate remain low.
“The reason that the UK variant or otherwise known as B1.1.7 is more infectious is because the viral surface on this virus, the COVID virus sticks more to our snot in our noses, in our oral membranes in the throat, so it’s stickier, and that means it’s more contagious and it can catch in you. When you sneeze or cough or breathe on somebody, they can catch it,” the Lt. Governor explained.
He says for every one person who catches COVID-19, one other is infected. For every individual who catches the UK variant, they infect 1.4 people.
“So that’s a lot more, believe it or not,” Green said. “Anybody you come into contact with, if you’re an asymptomatic carrier, is much more likely to catch it.
“There will be fewer lucky breaks that you just didn’t spread it to your significant other or kids or, your classmate or your teacher,” he said.
Green says the state could potentially see a surge in cases among younger people who party or gather and that he worries they could bring the highly transmissible strain into their home and spread it to parents or kupuna.
“I’ve asked the governor and director of health to strongly consider moving to the 65 to 74 categories starting March 1, because of this strain, and because we’re going to be getting Johnson and Johnson in soon,” Green shared.
“Then, if we even do get some spread from these new strains, it’s not as bad, not as dangerous,” he continued.
Currently, the state lab sequences 300 samples per month from each county for variants.
Green says a more concerning strain to look out for is the South African variant which health officials believe arrived in the U.S. over a week ago.
The CDC has reported six cases in three east coast states, but the original cases had no travel history, suggesting spread across the U.S.
“The UK variant does not appear to be more deadly,” Green said. “It’s very likely that the South African strain, which we don’t have here, is more lethal.”
The South African variant can also be more resistant to some vaccines and antibodies as well.
“One of the vaccines did not work quite as well, I believe it was the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Green said.
“So, these are concerns but so far, the main strains that are out there, the ones that we have in Hawaii, are fully responding to the vaccine,” he assured.
If there is a surge in cases in a week or two, Green says the state will be able to sample data and determine if it was from a Big Game party or the UK strain, and he encourages people to get vaccinated when it’s their time.
“Definitely continue to wear your mask no matter what, but do not think for one second that you’re immune until you’ve had that second shot, and you’ve had two weeks for it to kick in,” he said.