Hawaii Health Department reports 14 omicron cases as averages continue to climb

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Dec. 17—The state Department of Health's latest variant report now lists 14 omicron variant cases on Oahu.

The report, released Wednesday, reflects the results of whole genome sequencing conducted by the State Laboratories Division on samples collected statewide, and lists two more than on Dec. 10.

Health officials say there are likely more, with this variant already circulating in the community. While the omicron cases have been detected only on Oahu so far, officials say it is inevitable that cases will also surface on neighbor isles.

During the two-week period ending Dec. 4, the vast majority of variants circulating in Hawaii, 98 %, were the delta variant, while 2 % were omicron, according to the variant report. Delta has been the dominant variant in the state since at least July. Both are listed as variants of concern.

On Thursday the DOH reported, bringing the state's total since the start of the pandemic to 90, 270.

The count includes about 130 cases not previously reported because a testing provider experienced an interruption with an electronic laboratory reporting system, according to the DOH. The backlogged cases are from specimens analyzed between Nov. 28 and Monday.

Two more deaths on Oahu were also reported, bringing the state's COVID-19 death toll to 1, 065.

Hawaii's seven-day average of new cases, meanwhile, continued climbing to 210—representing a 106 % increase over 14 days ago. The average positivity rate statewide increased to 3.1 %.

Health officials are urging all eligible Hawaii residents to get a booster shot to better protect themselves against omicron, which is believed to be far more contagious than delta. All Hawaii residents age 16 and older are eligible for a booster dose if six months have passed since completing the initial vaccine series.

Teens ages 16 and 17 are eligible for a Pfizer booster while those age 18 and older are eligible for a Pfizer or Moderna booster, and may mix or match.

Those who received a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago are also eligible for a booster.

However, a Centers for Disease and Control Pre ­vention panel Thursday re ­ommended that most Americans be given the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines instead of J &J.

As of Thursday, 300, 143 third doses had been administered in the state, representing 21.1 % of the state's population.

Statewide, 73.3 % of the population has completed pre-booster vaccinations. To date, an estimated 380, 000 individuals in Hawaii have not yet been fully vaccinated.

Hawaii's public schools have also experienced a recent uptick in cases, with 243 reported between Dec. 1 and Wednesday, according to the Department of Education COVID-19 dashboard. The highest school day counts so far this month were reported Monday, with 62 cases, followed by 34 on Tuesday and 27 on Wednesday.

During the summer delta surge, 182 school cases were reported in August.

This past week, the highest infection case numbers were reported at Waipahu High School and Ewa Elementary School, which had 11 cases each, followed by Barbers Point Elementary, which had six cases.

During the same time frame, there were dozens of schools that reported just a single case and dozens of others that reported zero cases.

Today marks the last school day before winter break, which lasts through the rest of the year, with classes set to resume Jan. 4, according to the DOE calendar.

Between Aug. 1 and Dec. 6, Hawaii's public schools reported 4, 400 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases among students, staff and contracted service providers.

The DOE has hosted more than 100 school-based vaccination clinics for 5-to 11-year-olds. As of early December, 5, 415 students in that age group as well as 1, 432 members of the public had been vaccinated at the clinics. As of Nov. 1, 91 % of salaried employees had been vaccinated.

Earlier this month, 168 out of the 294 public schools, or 57 %, were offering COVID-19 testing through a federal program.

Statewide, the Health Department's COVID-19 dashboard recently reported 16.7 % of Hawaii residents ages 5-11 have completed vaccinations, while 26 % received at least one shot.

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