LIHU‘E — The COVID-19 variant known as the “California variant” was confirmed on the island Wednesday by the state Department of Health Kaua‘i District Health Office.
Samples from four household members confirmed that they were infected with the variant B1.429, also known as the “California variant.” The household cluster is related to inter-island travel.
Kaua‘i had one previous case of the B1.429 variant in January 2021. That case was also related to travel.
“The B1.429 variant is the dominant form of COVID-19 circulating on O‘ahu and in Maui County, so it is not surprising that this variant was found related to inter-island travel,” said Dr. Janet Berreman, head of the DOH Kaua‘i District Health Office.
“It is also the dominant strain now in California, which poses a risk for additional introduction to Kaua‘i as travel restrictions are loosened. The B1.429 variant is of concern because it is more easily transmissible from person to person and therefore poses an increased risk of community spread,” she said.
The variant was found when seven members of a household tested positive for COVID-19 after two family members traveled inter-island. Because of the significant transmission in the household and the travel history, samples from several of these cases were submitted for genomic sequencing to see whether they might be one of the variants of concern identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All four samples were confirmed to be the variant B1.429.
Fortunately, all known close contacts of these cases have completed their quarantine period and have been tested, and no additional cases have been identified. The DOH on Kaua‘i will continue monitoring for cases and testing for variants.
Six of the seven family members were unvaccinated at the time of their exposure, and the seventh had received only one of two doses. All seven confirmed cases were placed in health-directed isolation for 10 days after the onset of their illness. All confirmed cases, whether or not vaccinated, must complete a full isolation period to prevent any possibility of further transmission to others.
Thankfully, several of the people outside of the family who came into close contact with the infected family members were already fully vaccinated, having completed their vaccine doses 14 days or more before their first date of exposure.
Per CDC guidelines, fully vaccinated people who come into contact with an infected person are not required by health officials to isolate. Instead, they were able to continue working and going about their normal daily activities while self-monitoring for symptoms.
This refers to health-directed isolation, not mandatory traveler quarantines and exemptions.
The Kaua‘i District Health Office assisted with vaccine appointments for the cases and contacts ages 16 and older who were not yet fully vaccinated and wanted to be vaccinated.
“As residents travel more — both to the mainland and inter-island — and as we welcome more visitors to our island, it is especially important that we all continue to take precautions,” said Berreman.
“The strongest step we can take is to be vaccinated. I encourage all residents 16 years of age and older to make an appointment now if they have not already been vaccinated. And mahalo to those who have been vaccinated.”
2 new cases Wednesday (SUBHEAD)
Health officials reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
One case is a male child visitor whose source of infection is related to mainland travel.
The other case is an adult female resident whose source of infection is related to mainland travel and is a close contact of a previously-announced case.
All active cases are in isolation and close contacts are being identified, offered testing and directed to quarantine.
Wednesday’s cases bring the number of active cases to seven, with 241 cumulative cases.
Kaua‘i’s cumulative case count includes 206 confirmed locally, two probable, and 33 positive cases diagnosed elsewhere, as they received their pre-travel test results after arriving on island.