HONOLULU (KHON2) — Christmas is two weeks away, as of Dec. 10, and confirmed omicron cases on Oahu continue to rise.
Since Dec. 2, the state went from one confirmed omicron COVID case to 12, and the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) expects more cases to be confirmed soon.
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“These are largely among people who didn’t have direct connections to each other, which indicates that we are seeing deeper community spread of the omicron variant within our state,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, State Epidemiologist of the current cases.
“Eight of the 12 cases we have confirmed to have been fully vaccinated, and one was boosted as well,” Dr. Kemble continued.
She said none of the cases have been hospitalized.
Studies about Omicron are underway, but officials have said, so far, omicron does not appear to cause severe illness.
“We may see more transmission, even among vaccinated people, and re-infection may be more common with this variant,” Dr. Kemble continued.
She said vaccinated people have confidence in the vaccines and may be doing more at-risk behaviors, which could lead to exposure. The DOH encourages all residents, including the vaccinated, to get tested before events like family gatherings.
“Make sure that you’re not going to be exposing others may be a really good idea with omicron around now, even if you are fully vaccinated,” Dr. Kemble said.
Officials said because vaccinated people can have a breakthrough infection, vaccinated people should be mindful of symptoms because there is a possibility it can be COVID.
“If you’re feeling sick, stay home,” said Dr. Thomas Lee, University of Hawaii public health professor. “We really don’t want to spread any type of virus, whether it be the flu, influenza or COVID.”
Dr. Lee said it is up to each household on whether they feel safe going to multiple houses or parties over the holidays. He said fully vaccinated households with good ventilation are not as big of a risk compared to a gathering with a mixture of people or people you do not know.
Officials said the flu season is here and recommends people get their flu shot. Dr. Lee said people can get their flu shot and a booster shot at the same time.
“I still probably would wear a mask indoors, just because I’m not quite sure of everybody else’s exposure status,” added Dr. Lee.
The DOH is also asking close contacts of confirmed cases to return their phone calls, and they have been trying to reach a Maui resident who attended the anime convention in New York where multiple omicron cases have been confirmed. They have not yet been able to reach him or her.
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“I suspect there’s a lot of transmission already going on that we won’t be able to find out about because people aren’t talking to us,” Dr. Kemble said.