New COVID case surge makes people rethink holiday plans, with some getting tested beforehand

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Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 9:25 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 18, 2021 at 10:43 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An alarming rise in COVID cases in Hawaii is coming at a time when people are coming together to be with families, or gather at large events.

To get assurance, more people are showing up at testing sites. Just in the last two days, the lines have gotten longer at a test site at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

“Me and my wife started not feeling well the past couple of days, so we want to make sure that we don’t have COVID before we go back to work, because we just want to be safe,” said John Bernardo, one of those standing in line.

Others said a family member had come into close contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID — and they wanted to make sure they weren’t exposed, especially since the Omicron variant seems to be more contagious.

However, health experts say Delta is still the dominant — and dangerous — variant in Hawaii by far.

Could more restrictions be on the way? That’s a concern, even for kids.

“I’m starting to worry that if COVID gets worse, then we’ll have to go back to the lockdown, and that’s what kind of makes me scared, because I’m not going to be able to see my friends again, until probably, like, a long time,” said fifth-grader Raizon John Roman-Mahelona.

Gov. David Ige said that won’t be the case, at least for now.

“We would monitor the number of new cases as a leading indicator to determine when new restrictions would be required,” he said.

Health experts have said that the Omicron variant is more contagious than Delta, although it may be not as dangerous. But cases are expected to rise as more people travel and gather.

“We’ve got Christmas coming up at the end of next week. We’ve got New Year’s coming up a week after that, and we have seen very clear correlations between these gatherings, these events, and the subsequent surge in infection rates,” said Hilton Raethel, CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

“We’re on a high alert,” said Jill Hoggard Green, CEO of the Queen’s Health Systems. “We are preparing for a surge and getting ready at the hospital to have all of what’s necessary to take care of the patients that may come.”

The holiday surge is definitely making people think about their plans.

“I don’t know, it’s maybe just a family thing. That’s how it goes,” said Oahu resident Cynthia Shiraishi. “We don’t want a cluster, that’s why.”

“I wasn’t planning on going to away to visit family or anything,” said Bernardo. “I was just going to stay home for my safety and my family’s safety.”

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