State health officials track worrisome uptick in COVID hospitalizations

Hawaii is seeing a jump in the rate of COVID-19 infections and severe cases.
Published: Apr. 5, 2023 at 12:03 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 5, 2023 at 4:44 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii is seeing a jump in the rate of COVID-19 infections and severe cases.

The state Health Department reports the number of people hospitalized for COVID across the state surged early 90 percent over the past week.

Health experts say the latest data is a reminder COVID remains a threat, especially during holiday periods when travel and social gatherings increase the risk of transmission.

“We have 75 patients across our state who are COVID positive. And of those four are in the ICU. So the good news is we only have a small number in the ICU,” said Hilton Raethel, president/CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. “There’s been a lot more socializing. So it is possible that some of the increased infection rate and hospitalization rate is tied to spring break.”

State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble said in a news release that hospitals still have capacity.

“However, it is a reminder of the ongoing circulation of COVID-19 in our community,” Kemble said. “Staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, is the best defense against becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.”

Healthcare professionals worry the trend could continue with the upcoming Easter holiday, graduation season and summer travel.

“There’s still a risk when people are gathered in large numbers in indoor settings. And especially if there’s not good ventilation. So we just need to be mindful of that that COVID is around. We still and it’s not going to go away. It’s part of our lives now,” Raethel said.

Another concern? The infection rate is likely much higher than what is being reported.

“We know that we’re under counting, because so many people either aren’t testing or they’re, they’re doing home testing, and they’re not reporting sometimes,” said Dr. Michael Walter, medical director at Kalihi-Palama Health Center.

Dr. Walter says the medical community is tracking new Omicron subvariants circulating in Hawaii -- including XBB 1.9.1 -- also known as Hyperion.

“That variant is does appear to be more contagious, and it may have some features that make it a little more able to evade our vaccine and prior infection immunity,” he said.

That puts our vulnerable residents at risk -- normalizing mask use and COVID testing can help protect them.

“Think before you go to visit grandma or going out for Easter or going to gatherings and things like that where you might be around people who are at high risk and being unvaccinated unfortunately, is, is a high risk factor,” Dr. Walter said.

Meanwhile, the state reported 1,047 confirmed COVID cases statewide over the last week.

That figure doesn’t include those who test positive at home, the vast majority.

The DOH expects an updated booster recommendation from the CDC for those at higher risk of severe infection.

For details on COVID testing and vaccines, click here.