Hawai‘i is Averaging 300+ New Cases Per Day Over Last Three Days Amid Delta Spike
300 Cases Per Day Over Last 3 Days
Hawaiʻi is averaging more than 300 COVID-19 cases per day over the last three days, as the state experiences a rise in cases involving the Delta variant.
The Hawaiʻi State Department of Health reported 622 COVID cases statewide on Friday, which included a backlog of cases from earlier in the week due to an interruption in electronic lab reporting.
“We did have a connectivity problem and some of the labs were unable to submit their reports,” said Governor David Ige during a media briefing on Friday. “So the 622 cases that we reported today is an accumulation of the cases over the last three days. We did report counts for those three days, so certainly some of those counts were undercounted, and clearly, today’s 622 is more than the cases that accumulated in the last 24 hours. So it would be higher than the 355 peak that we saw in last year’s rapid escalation of cases.”
“If we look at the trends and we average it out, it would be over 300 cases per day for the last three days; and the trend is clearly increasing, versus what it was a week ago or two weeks ago–and really that’s what we’re most concerned about. If you look at the 622 cases, 25% of those cases are in children,” said Dr. Char.
Incentives for Newly Vaccinated: Are We at That Point?
“We are evaluating the president’s suggestion of $100 for those newly vaccinated,” said Gov. Ige. “We have been working with the Department of Health and many local businesses who have generously offered incentives throughout our campaign to get people vaccinated. We do find that every community is different. People in different communities respond differently to different incentives, so we’ll be looking at that cash incentive and try to work it into our exiting programs.”
Part of the concern is the equity notion about those who already got vaccinated.
“In the past incentive programs, we allowed everyone who did get vaccinated to participate in the drawings for the prizes. I do know that President Biden’s call is for those newly vaccinated to receive a cash prize,” said Gov. Ige who explained that the issue is being discussed.
He said the program, if implemented, would be similar to the restaurant cards used earlier in the pandemic.
“It would be similar kind of program that we would offer some kind of debit or cash card for $100. The real challenge is to manage the cards… Trying to work with the vaccination sites in making that available is a big administrative challenge that we would have to work through,” said Gov. Ige.
“We are discussing this with our committees within the Department of Health to talk about how we might incorporate a cash payout to those newly vaccinated. That whole issue of fairness always comes into play,” said Gov. Ige. “We don’t have a specific timeline of when that would be.”
DOH: Layered Approach to In-Person Learning
“With regard to the question: do we think it’s safe for kids to be back in school? The answer is yes,” said Dr. Char. “There is risk involved in everything but I think we also have to be cognizant that there is a cost to not having children in school, and having them fall further behind in learning, and the continued social isolation. So when we weigh everything, and we’re trying to make schools as safe as we possibly can.”
The Department of Health has been working with the Department of Education to put mitigation factors in place in an attempt to make schools safer.
“The approach that we’ve taken is just to figure out what are the core measures, and then what can we add onto that. We know as core measures: get vaccinated–that obviously is number one. We’re going to continue with masks… If you’re sick, stay home. Even if you just think it’s allergies, or a little bit of the sniffles, stay home. And then wash hands. If we do that, and then add on layers in the schools, things like trying to keep kids facing in the same direction, ventilation is good–let’s take advantage of being in Hawaiʻi and being able to go outdoors or open windows, and we just keep layering on things like that that are safe,” said Dr. Char.
According to DOH officials, there are an estimated 180,000 kids and 22,000 DOE staff that will be returning to school this coming week. While the department anticipates some rises, leaders said they think a return to in-person learning can be done “safely and reasonably,” by minimize the amount of spread through core measure and the layered approach.
Is a Vaccine Mandate for State Employees Possible?
“We certainly are evaluating and trying to understand what the federal government is doing with their federal employees and federal contractors. We are working to get information about how they would be implementing, and what the parameters and requirements would be. Certainly we are having discussions about state and county employees,” said Gov. Ige.
Variants of Concern & Variants of Interest
State officials say the Delta Variant is currently the dominant variant in the state with 55% of samples confirmed as such, but that varies by county. In Hawaiʻi County, for example, the presence of the Delta variant is as high as 77%, and in some of other counties the rate is a little lower, according to state health officials.
Overall, the presence of the Delta variant is trending upward for Hawaiʻi, according to variant reports which come out every couple of weeks. “We are mirroring the rest of the nation in seeing it just take off and become the dominant variant,” said Dr. Char.
As far as variants of interest, Dr. Char said the state is watching the Lambda variant, which she said is quite prevalent in South America and Peru.
7 Day Average Cases and Test Positivity
State health officials say despite the backlog, the upward trend is concerning. Dr. Libby Char, Director of the state Department of Health said, “The case count, when we look at it over a trend–because it’s really the trend that we are following more than any individual day, or individual point in time. It really is about the trend. So right now, we’re looking at a seven day case average of 230 new cases per day. That puts us at a 5.1% test positivity rate statewide.”
In Maui County, the seven day case average is 24 new cases per day, with a 4% test positivity rate. The Big Island of Hawaiʻi has the highest rate with an average of 50 new cases per day and a 6.8% test positivity rate. Kauaʻi has the lowest rate of infection in the state with an average of 6 new cases per day with a 2.7% test positivity rate. On Oʻahu, there is an average of 151 new cases per day, with a 5.4% test positivity rate.
Hospitalizations and Outcomes
When comparing the current situation to the peak count last year, state officials say they know more today about COVID-19 than they did a year ago, there are better therapeutics and treatments available for COVID-19, and there are better outcomes.
“This time last year when we had peak of 355 cases, we had more than 150 covid patients in our hospitals and many of them were in the ICU units,” said Gov. Ige. “We are getting better outcomes that allows us some flexibility.”
He said mitigation measures are being discussed to prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed. As if Friday, there are 117 people in the state hospitalized (23 in the ICU and 12 on ventilators) with COVID-19. On Maui, there are 18 people hospitalized with COVID-19–four are in the ICU and three are on ventilators.
Breakthrough Cases Vs. Un-Vaccinated Infections
State officials say the best defense continues to be vaccination, and provided data on outbreak cases in comparison to cases involving un-vaccinated individuals.
“If we look at the total number of people that have been vaccinated and then we look at the number of break through cases, I think it comes out to .06%. So in other words, we’re seeing roughly six people out of 10,000 getting infected if they are fully vaccinated. We compare that to about 300 people per 10,000 getting COVID if you’re not vaccinated,” said Dr. Char.
View the press briefing in its entirety here.