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As Hawaii sees record high COVID cases, governor pleads with public to change behaviors

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 9:54 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 13, 2021 at 2:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As Hawaii reported its highest COVID case count since the start of the pandemic on Friday, Gov. David Ige pleaded with the public, saying it’s time to start changing behaviors and stop gathering as the delta variant spreads rapidly in the community.

“Our heroes in healthcare on the frontlines battling COVID again are being asked to save us,” Ige said, in a news conference Friday. “It is unfair. Unfair because we all can save ourselves. Our behavior can save us. The actions we take each and every day can make a difference in the battle against COVID.”

On Friday, Hawaii reported 1,167 new COVID-19 infections and one additional fatality.

Ige reiterated that even though some of the cases were numbers that would’ve been reported Wednesday and Thursday due to an interruption in an electronic lab reporting system, the fact remains that 1,167 additional people are infected by COVID. And the overwhelming majority of them are unvaccinated.

What that also means: Hawaii is averaging 729 new COVID infections each day, he said.

“We continue to trend in the wrong direction,” Ige said, adding that hospitals are filling up and are seeing younger and younger patients.

Despite the alarming number of cases, Ige said he would not impose further restrictions, but that’s something that’s being discussed on a daily basis.

“We don’t have any specific plans at this point in time, but we do look at what is happening in the community and being focused on restrictions as we move forward,” he said.

Ige again stressed the importance of wearing masks, not gathering, staying home when sick, and getting vaccinated — given that the vaccines are safe and effective.

“It is time to believe the science, believe your doctor and believe your healthcare professional,” Ige said.

He also said they are evaluating changes to the state’s Safe Travels program, but did not have any current plans to make any modifications, adding that of the 10 to 12% of cases that are travel-related, only 1 to 2% are among visitors.

Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char acknowledged that they are likely underestimating the number of visitor-related cases, but the focus is on returning residents because those are the people who are going into the community and potentially spreading the virus to others.

In any case, she said, “This is a horrible time to travel. Stay home, unless you have to travel, stay home. You don’t know that the person sitting next to you doesn’t have COVID.”

“If you can go back to thinking of what we did before we had vaccines and how we were very, very cautious — we wore our masks and we kept our distance and we didn’t gather, that would work really well right now,” she said.

Char said the virus is also overwhelming her 2,000 staff members who are working around the clock to contact trace. With over 7,000 active infections in the state, if they each came into contact with 10 people, that would be 70,000 close contacts that would need to be called.

“With over 7,000 active cases in Hawaii, this virus is impacting every facet of our lives, including our ability to respond,” she said.

Char also asked the public not to yell at contact tracers, who are only trying to help.

She urged the public to have a COVID plan, similar to a hurricane plan, especially since the delta variant has been a game changer.

“What’s your COVID plan? Where will you isolate if you test positive? Who will help take care of your family members if you’re sick? Who will help you get groceries? Think about this,” she said.

She said unlike the original strain of COVID, the delta variant means the virus is spreading much faster and sooner, so people will start to experience symptoms between three to five days.

“With the delta variant being so pervasive, the fight has changed,” Char said. “When someone is infected with delta variant of COVID they have about a 1,000 times to 1,200 times as much virus in them than those that had the original type of COVID. You can see people get sicker much faster.”

This story will be updated.

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