Health officials say lifted restrictions are not only driving up COVID cases, but also the flu
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Health officials said flu cases are higher than it has been compared to the last couple of years when strict public health measures were in place.
“So, our physician offices, the urgent care centers, they are getting many more inquiries or patients coming in with flu with fevers, with high temperatures,” said Hilton Raethel of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.
Raethel attributes the growing number of flu cases to the lack of COVID restrictions, including masking and social distancing.
“There’s a lot of people just congregating and going out to restaurants, going to events, going to meetings,” said Raethel. “And so those are the types of activities that people were not engaging in for the last two years.”
HAH is still collecting data for flu hospitalizations.
But even though COVID case counts are up and COVID hospitalizations are the highest they’ve seen in a couple of months, Raethel said there are currently only nine COVID patients in the ICU.
“Which means that the severity of the illness in these COVID patients is lower than it was certainly for the Delta surge,” said Raethel. “And also, lower than it was for the first Omicron surge.”
Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii, said businesses who are already dealing with staffing shortages are noticing more employees calling in sick.
“We’ve seen some of them have COVID, so they need to stay at home [or] somebody in their family that they’re living with has COVID,” said Yamaki.
As of last Wednesday, the state reported over 7000 new COVID infections in a span of seven days.
With the state averaging more than 900 new COVID cases a day not including at-home tests, UH reinstated their indoor mask mandate.
The city is also requiring masks for summer fun programs, and Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth is encouraging “mindful masking.”
“We’re very supportive of what the mayor on the Big Island has done,” said Raethel. “So, if the infection rate continues to go up, if the hospitalization rate for COVID continues to go up, if we see more flu activity, we would be very, very supportive of a mass mandate, especially indoors.”
The Hawaii Pandemic Applied Modeling Group predicts the current surge will peak in June.
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