(BIVN) – There were 106 newly reported cases of COVID-19 in the State of Hawaiʻi on Thursday. Of that number, three (3) case were identified on the Big Island.
The Hawaiʻi Department of Health says there have been 25 cases of COVID-19 reported on Hawaiʻi island in the past 14 days.
Hawaiʻi County has seen an average 0.3% test positivity rate over the last 14 days, with an average of only two new cases per day.
From the Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense:
The Hawaii Department of Health reports three (3) new cases of Coronavirus with two (2) people hospitalized on Hawaii Island. There have been no deaths reported in the last eight weeks.
The Department of Health reports that nearly 60% of the most vulnerable population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The demand for the vaccine continues exceeds the current supply. Everyone will have an opportunity to be vaccinated as more supplies become available. In the meantime, we ask that you keep following the preventative policies of wearing face coverings, maintaining distance, and keeping our gatherings to no more than 10 persons.
The Department of Health continues to coordinate vaccination points of distribution around the Island. Medical facilities and pharmacies on Hawaii Island are offering vaccine registration to individuals who are 75 and older. For a list of all the facilities providing vaccinations visit the Civil Defense website.
Civil Defense: hawaiicounty.gov
Higher Case Count Partially Due to Historic Cases
The State Department of Health on Saturday issued the following statement, following the Disease Outbreak and Control Division’s report of 106 new coronavirus cases. “31 cases from Maui were not previously confirmed due to a laboratory reporting issue,” the State said. “These cases occurred between Nov. 29, 2020 and Feb. 18, 2021. These cases are not included in the current 7-day averages. DOCD is receiving new electronic test results from a Maui testing site, resulting in approximately 16,500 newly reported historic negative results from November to now, included in Maui and statewide testing counts.”
The State says the higher case counts on Maui “also include 19 positive cases that are part of a current cluster at Maui Community Correctional Center, and a cluster at a community housing complex. Community spread is also the cause of smaller clusters related to food and drink establishments. Contact tracing, isolation and quarantine measures are being used to control these clusters. Vaccination is being offered at MCCC and in areas where outbreaks are a concern.”
“We really need to ramp up compliance to safety protocols or the alternative would be really high case numbers in the coming week, possibly resulting in tighter restrictions,” said Dr. Lorrin Pang, the DOH Maui District Health Officer.
New COVID Variant Found In Hawaiʻi
The Hawaiʻi Department of Health State Laboratory confirmed the presence of a new COVID variant in Hawai‘i on Friday. From the health department:
The P.2 variant, which contains the E484K mutation, was identified through surveillance testing conducted on O‘ahu.
While the implications of this additional strain are unknown at this time, the P.2 variant is closely watched because two individuals in Brazil who were previously infected with COVID were reinfected with the P.2 variant.
It is unclear whether this variant is more resistant to vaccines and antibodies gained through previous COVID infection.
“New case counts are down from a month ago, but these variants remind us to remain vigilant,” said State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char. “The more the virus is able to infect people, the more opportunity it has to mutate, so it behooves us to prevent infections. We all know that is done by wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, avoiding large gatherings, and getting vaccinated when it is our turn.”
While the P.2 variant is still being studied, people previously vaccinated or previously infected are not expected to become seriously ill if infected with the P.2 variant. The P.2 variant is thought to have originated in Brazil. It has been found in several mainland states and Europe.
The P.2 variant has thus far been detected in one individual who lives on O‘ahu. “That individual recently traveled to the U.S. mainland,” said Acting State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble. “That person is in isolation and known close contacts are in quarantine.”
Another variant of concern is associated with an increase of COVID cases on Maui. The B.1.429 variant, previously called L452R, was first detected in Hawai‘i almost four weeks ago. On February 2, 2021, the Department of Health (DOH) announced seven known cases on O‘ahu, one case on Kaua‘i, and one case on Maui.
The B.1.429 variant was first detected in California in December. It has become the dominant strain in California and is found in more than 40 other states. The B.1.429 variant may be more transmissible than other COVID strains but there is still much to learn about this variant, and it is still considered “under investigation” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is not clear how effective current vaccines are against B.1.429.
Also, three additional cases of the B.1.1.7 variant are confirmed on O‘ahu. This brings the total number of B.1.1.7 cases in Hawai‘i to six. All six are on O‘ahu and are household contacts.
“The P.2, B.1.429, and B.1.1.7 variants were discovered as part of proactive statewide surveillance conducted by the DOH in collaboration with private hospitals and independent clinical laboratories,” said State Laboratories Division Director Dr. Edward Desmond. Hawaii currently leads the nation in the percentage of specimens which are sequenced and sent to the international GISAID (global initiative on sharing all influenza data) database.
Discovery of variants by DOH helps in that patients identified with variant strains can be the focus of the most rigorous contact tracing efforts.
Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Granted Emergency Use Authorization
Following Saturday’s news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Emergency Use Authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccination, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health said it now awaits national guidelines on administering the vaccine. U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is expected to soon issue recommendations on who should receive the vaccine and how it should be distributed.
“Today’s announcement validates the FDA’s findings that this vaccine is safe and effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death,” Hawai‘i State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char said. “Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose regimen and less stringent handling requirements will bolster Hawaii’s vaccination efforts. We look forward to reviewing the CDC’s recommendations so we can make informed distribution decisions.”
According to the State of Hawaiʻi:
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Unlike previous vaccines approved by the FDA, this vaccine requires only one dose, and its less stringent storage requirements make it easier to transport and use.
Once the CDC makes recommendations on who should receive the vaccine, state leaders will be able to move forward in coordinating distribution.
Hawaii Receives $87M to Provide COVID-19 Vaccines
From the State of Hawaiʻi:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) granted the state of Hawaiʻi $87.4 million to open multiple, state-led community vaccination sites.
This reimbursement grant will be managed by Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), the Department of Health, and the Department of Budget & Finance. These funds will cover expenses for medical and support staff, personal protective equipment, facility costs and supplies required to store, handle, transport and administer vaccines, and efforts to share public information regarding vaccinations.
The $87.4 million in approved funding represents 50% of Hawaii’s estimate of the cost of to administer the statewide vaccination program for the first 90 days. With proper documentation, the grant will reimburse the state for eligible expenses to distribute and administer the COVID-19 vaccines to its population. The State is coordinating with the Counties and various healthcare organizations to gather eligible vaccine expenditures to file for monthly reimbursements. Qualified healthcare organizations also have the option to apply for reimbursements directly with FEMA.
The Stafford Act Public Assistance program provides disaster assistance to states, tribes, local governments, and certain private nonprofit organizations following a presidential disaster declaration to quickly respond to and recover from major disasters or emergencies.
One of HI-EMA’s core values is mālama – to care for or protect. We remain committed to helping the people of Hawaiʻi in their time of need and will continue to work with our partners to stop the spread of this disease. Please remember to wash, mask, and distance and do your part to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.