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DOH investigating 3 more COVID cases they suspect are Omicron mutation

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 4:07 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 3, 2021 at 4:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Officials have confirmed one case of the Omicron mutation in Hawaii and are conducting genome sequencing on three more COVID specimens they suspect are the variant.

The news comes as fears about the variant grow around the world. Scientists believe it could be more transmissible and evade immunity, though they stress more study is needed.

Meanwhile, experts locally say Hawaii is ready if it sees an uptick in cases.

After dealing with the twists and turns of the pandemic for nearly two years now, Hawaii Pacific Health chief quality officer Dr. Melinda Ashton says hospitals are able to adapt to whatever Omicron brings.

“Our hospitals are ready,” Ashton said. “I am not at all concerned that we need to create anything new or different, at least at this point, as far as what we know about Omicron.”

The Omicron strain arrives in the state months after the Delta variant resulted in record cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Delta remains the dominant mutation in the islands.

Ashton says one of the chief lessons learned from Delta is turning to outside assistance if facilities start filling up.

“We know that we don’t have the number of skilled workers that we need when we get incredibly busy so that’s why it was very helpful to have an infusion of staff from the mainland to help us,” Ashton explained. “It’s possible we’ll need that again.

“We’re all working on contingencies to try to make our staffing more resilient, more appropriate.”

On Thursday, Hawaii became just the fifth state in the U.S. to report an Omicron infection.

State Department of Health officials say the patient is under 65, caught the variant through community spread and was not vaccinated.

While much about Omicron is unknown, immunizations appear to minimize symptoms.

“We still anticipate that vaccination is going to be one of the best ways to stop transmission,” said DOH Epidemiologist Sarah Kemble “Whether its getting your first dose or getting boosted.”

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