COVID cases are rising rapidly – and the surge could continue throughout the summer

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — COVID infections are rising sharply in Hawaii — and the rise shows no signs of slowing.

The state recorded nearly 9,000 new confirmed COVID cases in the previous week, according to figures released Wednesday. The figure does not include positive home tests.

Recent reports also show that Hawaii has the highest rate of COVID infections per capita in the country.

And right now, health officials say it’s difficult to predict when the surge will end, given the discovery of two new Omicron subvariants (BA.4 and BA.5).

“They appear to be more transmissible than their predecessors, perhaps 1.6 to 1.8 times more transmissible than the other Omicron variant,” said DOH spokesman Brooks Baehr.

“So we expect BA.4 and BA.5 to spread rapidly across the islands, so that’s certainly a concern.”

Those who are forecasting the trend lines of COVID in the community agree with these concerns.

The Hawaii Pandemic Applied Modeling Work Group says Oahu could soon see 4,000 new daily cases, with a possible second spike in July attributed to multiple factors.

“So reinfections and diminishing vaccine effectiveness are really having an impact and making it a lot harder to predict whether we’re going to peak and fall back down and come back up again, or we’re saying we will,” said HIPAM co-chair Thomas Lee.

“Given Hawaii’s uniqueness with travel and a potentially constant influx of new infections.”

DOH also expects case numbers to continue to rise.

“We’ve had nine straight weeks of rising case numbers and we don’t think that’s going to slow down,” Baehr said. “We know we’ve had a lot of graduations, a lot of celebrations and a lot of people coming together over the past few weeks, and with good reason. But unfortunately that means we may see increased transmission.”

Fortunately, hospital admissions are no longer following the upward trend they used to be.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency reports that just over 150 people are currently being hospitalized with COVID, well down from the 400 in January during the first Omicron surge.

For now, the state will continue to announce new cases on a weekly basis rather than relying on daily reports.

“If you see we’re averaging 700 cases a day, or if you see we’re averaging 1,200 cases a day, the response should really be the same,” Baehr said. “Put on your mask, avoid crowds, stay home if you’re sick and learn about your vaccinations.”

DOH adds that early data show the vaccines are still effective against the new Omicron subvariants.

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