Governor urges vigilance, precautions amid ‘alarming’ surge in COVID infections
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige urged residents Friday to take additional precautions, including by getting vaccinated or a booster shot, amid an “alarming” surge in new COVID cases in the islands that appears to be driven at least in part by the highly transmissible Omicron mutation.
But Ige stopped short of instituting any new restrictions or making changes to the Safe Travels program, saying that COVID hospitalizations are still low.
The state did put a hold on downsizing its National Guard task force, extending some service members for additional duty. And Ige added that the state and counties are continuing to monitor the situation.
“We are seeing an alarming increase in the number of cases,” the governor said, at a hastily called news conference on Friday morning.
“It’s time to reassess your plans so you can celebrate with your loved ones this holiday season.”
There were 797 new COVID cases reported statewide Friday, the highest single-day case count in the islands since Sept. 11. Meanwhile, there were two additional COVID fatalities reported.
Dr. Libby Char, state Health Department director, said the new cases were a mix of Omicron and Delta variants. Both are more contagious than the original virus, but Omicron can be transmitted more easily.
“If it’s that easily transmitted, just by the sheer numbers, we’re going to see people ending up in the hospital and we’re going to end up seeing people get severely ill from it,” she said.
Char said the state has confirmed 31 cases of Omicron so far. Another 17 cases are suspicious.
“We need to keep our cases down and celebrate the holidays responsibly,” said Char, adding that residents should consider stick to smaller gatherings and gatherings held outdoors.
She also noted that vaccination does not provide complete protection against the virus.
In fact, Omicron appears to drop the efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines significantly, which is why people are being urged to get the booster shot.
Some 73.3% of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated, while 78.6% have received at least one dose. Meanwhile, just 20% of residents have received a booster.
The state’s message of vigilance comes ahead of Christmas week, during which many residents are expected to gather with friends and family for holiday parties.
People aren’t being urged to cancel those gatherings. Instead, they’re being told to take extra precautions, like gathering outside rather than inside or keeping the guest list smaller.
The 14-day average for new cases in Hawaii has soared nearly 200%.
And the percentage of tests coming back positive is now above 4%.
On Oahu, it’s up to 5.4% and the seven-day average for new cases is up to 251.
The new cases reported Friday bring the statewide total for infections since the pandemic began to 91,067. The state said the infections Friday included no backlogged cases.
With two additional fatalities, the state’s death toll now stands at 1,067.
Over the last 14 days, the state says there have been 2,842 cases detected.
Of the new infections reported Friday:
- 712 were on Oahu
- 29 were on Hawaii Island
- 23 were on Maui
- 14 were on Kauai
There were also 19 people diagnosed out of state.
This story will be updated.
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