(BIVN) – Hawaiʻi state officials held a news conference on Friday in order to address a sudden surge in new COVID-19 cases.
There were 797 newly reported cases of COVID-19 in the State of Hawaiʻi on Friday, nearly double the 395 cases reported the day before. Of that number, 712 cases were identified on Oʻahu.
“We are seeing an alarming increase in the number of cases,” said Governor David Ige during the Facebook livestream. “We also know that something that can help slow the spread of the virus is something that we have done for the past two years: get vaccinated, from keiki to kūpuna. For those who are fully vaccinated and yet to get their boosters, please do so. Wear your masks. Especially as required indoors and in crowded spaces outdoors.”
“This is a mix of Delta variant as well as Omicron,” said Hawaiʻi Department of Health director Dr. Libby Char. “COVID is surging worldwide and across the United States, and we are seeing more and more Omicron variant. Right now in Hawaiʻi, our variant report came out – I think it was on Wednesday – and of the specimens collected up to December 4th, two percent (2%) of our state cases are Omicron variant. They’re all on Oʻahu. If you just use the Oʻahu cases as a denominator, then we’re at five percent (5%) on Oʻahu. But we know that that’s going up. We have had 31 confirmed cases of Omicron variant as of last night. And we have another 17 cases that look very suspicious for Omicron that we are performing whole genetic sequencing on.”
“Omicron appears to be more easily transmitted,” said Dr. Char. “And it appears right now that it is less virulent. But don’t be fooled into thinking that it won’t affect our hospitals and our families. Perhaps the numbers in the hospitals may end up being worse than Delta” due to the exponentially higher number of people that could be infected with Omicron, Dr. Char explained.
The State appeared to be on the verge of relaxing certain pandemic measures just as the new numbers were reported. Already, the Hawaiʻi National Guard cancelled a ceremony scheduled for today that was going to mark the drawdown of the Hawaiʻi National Guard Joint Task Force that supported COVID-19 response. According to the State of Hawaiʻi:
The decision to cancel the ceremony and to reestablish the HING JTF was made by Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, the adjutant general for the State of Hawaiʻi as the number of COVID-19 cases rise and in anticipation of support that will be needed for testing, contact tracing, and vaccinations.
“The HING must be responsive, and to do so we must anticipate needs,” said Maj. Gen. Hara. “We must organize again and resource ourselves to meet the needs of the counties and the state.”
Prior to today’s case count, the Hawai‘i Department of Health had announced that it will “cease state-wide operation of isolation / quarantine facilities on December 31, 2021,” and said the action is pursuant to Governor Ige’s most recent Emergency Proclamation that “the counties shall continue to have direct responsibility for emergency management within their respective county.”
The State added that the Delta and Omicron variants are highly transmissible, and that it “is likely anyone who tests positive will have infected household members by the time they get test results. Therefore, they are advised to self-isolate at home.”
Governor Ige said the State is not currently planning on making any changes to the Safe Travels program.