UH pandemic modelers: Oahu, Big Island in ‘eye’ of COVID hurricane

UH pandemic forecasters say Maui is just two weeks behind what Honolulu and the Big Island are seeing now.
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 5:01 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 25, 2021 at 10:07 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - UH pandemic modelers say Oahu and the Big Island are already in the middle of a health care hurricane ― and they warn Maui isn’t far behind.

The Hawaii Pandemic Applied Modeling Work Group says there are no signs that the alarming increases in COVID cases and hospitalizations on Oahu and Hawaii County are slowing down.

“We are definitely in the eye,” said Thomas Lee, UH epidemiologist and HiPAM co-chair. “How long are we going to be in the middle of that eye. You don’t know where it is. It’s so big,” he added.

UH pandemic forecasters say Maui is just two weeks behind what Honolulu and the Big Island are seeing now. They expect the daily infections on Maui to increase 15 to 20% in one week.

As for hospitalizations, they see an acceleration of 20 to 30% in a week.

“Right now, there is a hurricane coming,” said Monique Chyba, a UH math professor also with HiPAM.

“It’s a same thing with the pass of a hurricane. It is adjusted. It does not mean the model is wrong. It means there are external forces that are acting on the model that you cannot predict,” she added.

Epidemiologists say the Delta variant has already taken over Maui County, which has the lowest vaccination rate in the state at just 56%.

Government data shows visitors are not the main source of COVID infection.

But Tom Blamey, math professor at UH Maui College, says the volume of tourists could strain Maui’s only hospital ― which is already in crisis.

“Hawaii is a tourist destination,” Blamey said.

“It’s a very physical place so people are in the waves, people who are rather sedentary, they come to Hawaii to exert themselves so you are talking about cardiac events, you are talking about critical injuries.”

Disease forecasters say over the next two weeks, they do not see the cases stabilizing in any county.

That’s why they say vaccination and personal responsibility are ways to prevent their frightening forecasts models from coming true.

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