Experts urge vigilance as Hawaii appears on track for another COVID surge
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Health officials warn Hawaii could be heading into another COVID surge as cases and hospitalizations rise for a seventh straight week.
In its latest report, the state Department of Health confirmed 5,768 hundred new infections and six more COVID-related deaths.
Experts say now is the time to take precautions as the state heads into graduation season.
This past week, the state averaged 722 positive test results every day, not counting at-home positives. Meanwhile, there are also 91 people currently hospitalized with COVID and eight people in the ICU.
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“Those numbers have grown steadily,” said Brooks Baehr, DOH spokesperson.
“I believe it was March 27, we had just 11 people in the hospital with COVID.”
The state Department of Education is extending its indoor mask mandate through the summer.
Interim Schools Superintendent Keith Hayashi said in a news conference Wednesday that individual schools can make changes to graduation ceremonies.
“Schools have a flexibility to determine events specific details to maintain the health and safety of all attendees,” Hayashi said. “The number of guests allowed and lei giving, for example, may look different at various campuses based on venue considerations, and other factors.”
DOH previously announced two clusters linked to proms and last week there were more than 1,000 cases reported across all schools. But Hayashi said only one school, Molokai Middle, had to switch to distance learning because of illness and staffing issues.
“As an added safety measure schools can use for events like graduation, we’ve distributed half a million home test kits to schools over the past month,” said Hayashi.
In addition to schools, retailers are also worried about the rise in COVID infections.
This is usually a busy time for them and they are worried customers will stay home.
“As graduation season approaches, we’re kind of worried about that,” said Tina Yamaki, of the Retail Merchants Association. “People are still buying lei or buying gifts. So it is a concern for us.”
State Epidemiologist Sarah Kemble said people have let their guard down since the indoor mask mandate let up.
“The main point now is masking is going to be more critical as these numbers continue to rise,” Kemble said. “And as we see an impact in people being hospitalized and severely ill.”
There are no changes to statewide rules other than at schools.
The state Health Department also wants to remind people that COVID treatments are available for people who are at high risk.
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