HONOLULU (KHON2) — Experts believe the rise in COVID cases in Hawaii is due to the omicron variant, although it is not dominant just yet.
The Hawaii Department of Health’s (DOH) latest variant report identified 14 omicron cases from Nov. 27 through Dec. 4, making up approximately 2% of cases statewide, while delta made up the rest (98%).
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“It’s not the dominant strain yet in Hawaii; however, its doubling time is dramatically different,” explained Hilton Raethel, president of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. “The doubling time for the delta variant was about two weeks; the doubling time for the omicron variant is estimated to be in the three-day range.”
One notable sign experts are looking at is the state positivity rate doubling from 1.4% on Dec. 9 to 3.1% on Dec.16.
The DOH said there are more than 14 omicron cases circulating as of Thursday, Dec. 16, that were not included in the report — which took its last sample on Dec. 4.
“The fact that our numbers are now really increasing rapidly is absolutely what we would expect if omicron is driving that increase,” explained Dr. Melinda Ashton, executive vice president of Hawaii Pacific Health.
Scientists said omicron symptoms have been mild so far, but officials warn a more contagious virus means more people can get sick.
“Then there are going to be plenty of people who are sick enough to need care, so that’s what is concerning,” Dr. Ashton added.
Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he will start having serious conversations once hospitalizations get above 350.
As of Thursday, Dec. 16, there were 40 COVID patients in hospitals.
“Safe Access Oahu we have in place and that’s going to continue; I think the only other thing we would look at would be large gatherings, but it would take a lot to do that,” Blangiardi said.
Health officials said boosters provide the best protection against severe illness, hospitalizations and infections against omicron. For now, health officials recommend people be aware of who they are with in close indoor settings.
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“Your risk is their risk; so, whatever they did and their risk of COVID they bring it to you, so wear your mask, keep your distance and try not to congregate in large numbers indoors,” Dr. Ashton said.