Experts: COVID cases are soaring ― and the surge could continue through the summer

Health officials say it’s difficult to project when the surge will end given the detection of two new Omicron subvariants.
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 3:15 PM HST|Updated: May. 27, 2022 at 5:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - COVID infections are soaring in Hawaii ― and the surge shows no signs of slowing down.

According to figures released Wednesday, the state saw nearly 9,000 new confirmed COVID cases in the previous week. The figure doesn’t include positive at-home tests.

Recent reports also show Hawaii has the highest rate of COVID infections per capita in the country.

And right now, health officials say it’s difficult to project when the surge will end given the detection of two new Omicron subvariants (BA.4 and BA.5).

“They do appear to be more transmissible than their predecessors, maybe 1.6 to 1.8 times more transmissible than the other Omicron variant,” said DOH spokesperson Brooks Baehr.

“So we expect BA.4 and BA.5 may spread quickly throughout the islands, so that’s certainly a reason to be concerned.”

Those that forecast COVID’s trend lines in the community echo those concerns.

The Hawaii Pandemic Applied Modeling Work Group says Oahu could soon see 4,000 new daily cases with a potential second surge in July driven by several factors.

“So reinfections and vaccine efficacy decreasing, those two things are really impacting and making it a lot more difficult to kind of forecast if we peak and come down and go back up again, or we maintain that,” said HIPAM co-chair Thomas Lee.

“Given how unique Hawaii is with travel and a potential constant influx of new infections.”

DOH is also expecting case counts to keep rising.

“We’ve experienced nine straight weeks of increasing case counts and we don’t think that’s gonna slow down just yet,” Baehr explained. “We know we’ve had a lot of graduations, a lot of celebrations a lot of people getting together in recent weeks and for good reason. But sadly, that means we may see increased transmission.”

Fortunately, hospitalizations are not following the upward trend as they did before.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency reports just over 150 people are now hospitalized with COVID, far below the 400 in January during the initial Omicron surge.

For now, the state will continue to announce new cases weekly rather than reverting back to daily reports.

“If you see that we have an average of 700 cases a day or if you see that we have 1,200 cases a day, the response really should be the same,” Baehr said. “Put on your mask, avoid crowds, stay home when you are sick, and get up to date on your vaccinations.”

DOH adds that early data shows that the vaccines are still effective against the new Omicron subvariants.

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