HONOLULU (KHON2) — Christmas Day 2021 marked the third day in a row for four-digit COVID-19 infections in Hawaii, and the positivity rate continues to increase on every island.
The omicron variant is doing exactly what health officials have been predicting — doubling infections at rapid speed.
On Tuesday, Dec. 21, the state reported 707 COVID infections, then that number jumped to 1,511 on Thursday, Dec. 23. On Wednesday, Dec. 22, the state reported 961 infections, then that number jumped to 1,828 on Friday, Dec. 24.
There were only 1,215 active COVID infections statewide on Saturday, Dec. 4, and the omicron variant has shown how quickly it can spread and infect. As of Saturday, Dec. 25, there are 10,281 active COVID infections — a 790% increase in three weeks.
Experts said the worst of this surge lies ahead. The latest Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) map shows nearly every zip code on Oahu has over 200 active COVID cases within the last 14 days.
According to the DOH’s COVID map, Ewa Beach leads the state with 711 infections reported. In second place is Waipahu with 617. The zip code 96816, which spreads from Kahala to Palolo, also reported 521 cases.
On Maui, Wailuku reported 129 cases, followed by Kihei/Wailea/Makena with 113, as well as Lahaina with 112.
On Hawaii island, Hilo reported 149 cases. No single zip code on Kauai has reported over 100 cases in the last 14 days, as of Dec. 25.
“We’re part of a large omicron surge right now; the positivity rate is 10% statewide,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green explained. “There is going to be spread over the holidays because a lot of people are minimally symptomatic, and they’re spreading omicron. Even if you’re vaccinated, if it’s been six months, you’re not very well protected, so you need a booster.”
As of Friday, Dec. 24, there were roughly 340,000 people who have gotten a booster shot, but health officials are urging kupuna and people at-risk to get theirs as soon as possible.
“We will know within about 10 days whether we’re gonna have a significant surge,” added Green.
He said the majority of current hospitalizations are the unvaccinated and people over 60 years of age. As of Christmas day, there were 79 COVID patients in hospitals across the state.
“Twenty-eight of those individuals had two shots, but I don’t believe anyone had three shots that got hospitalized,” Green continued.
He is encouraging Gov. David Ige to open additional booster and testing locations over the next few weeks because health experts are predicting that January could be a bad month for the state.
“I would expect our hospital numbers will start to go up somewhat significantly in the first week of January,” Green said.
Experts do not know how bad it could get because no one can predict human behavior, and it is still unknown how severe omicron can be compared to the delta variant.
According to University of Hawaii COVID forecasters, if omicron is half as severe as delta, then they anticipate 247 COVID hospitalizations by Jan. 2, 2022. However, if omicron is as severe as delta, then more than 800 people could be in the hospital with the virus; best case scenario there may be 92 hospitalizations to start 2022.
“We’re going to continue to see an increasing number of cases just purely because that’s how infectious omicron is,” explained Dr. Thomas Lee, forecaster and co-founder of HiPAM and UH public health professor.
“There’s a lot of factors in play, don’t just focus on the case count itself. Look at the percent positivity, and also, we’re really monitoring the trends for hospitalizations and ICUs,” Dr. Lee continued.
FEMA staff are expected to arrive in Hawaii on Jan. 10, 2022, if hospitals do see a surge in coronavirus cases.
Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page
“Each wave I know is exhausting, so just have a wonderful time with your families and in the new year, there’ll be a lot of hope for recovery,” Green said.