LIHU‘E — Monday, the state Department of Health reported the detection of the Delta variant, B.1.617.2, within the state. This variant was first detected in India, and makes up about 6% of all cases in the United States.
This variant was first detected in an O‘ahu resident who traveled to Nevada in early May, where the variant was first reported in that state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent categorized this variant as “concerning.”
“Early evidence suggests the Delta variant might spread more quickly than other SARS-CoV-2 strains,” State Laboratories Division Administrator Edward Desmond said in a statement.
“There are reports the Delta variant produces a higher rate of severe illness than original COVID-19, but we do not yet have enough evidence to support that conclusion.”
The O‘ahu resident was fully vaccinated at the time, and presented a negative COVID-19 pre-travel test prior to entering the state, but developed mild symptoms after returning to Hawai‘i. The DOH reported the resident then tested positive and was quarantined.
“The vaccines not only help protect against infection, they protect against severe illness,” said Dr. Elizabeth Char, state DOH director in a statement. “While this is one of those very-rare, breakthrough cases in which the vaccine did not prevent infection, the infected person did not suffer severe illness.”
While not detected officially on Kaua‘i, officials are looking into a recent uptick in cases.
Monday, DOH Kaua‘i District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman warned of large gatherings and travel-related COVID-19 infections as the state loosens its travel restrictions.
“We have seen some disturbing trends locally in the past couple of days,” Mayor Derek Kawakami said.
Since the start of the month, 17 cases were reported, including one false positive linked to mainland travel. Two cases were reported Monday, both in residents related to community transmission.
“Here on Kaua’i, we are seeing another rise in cases,” Berreman said Monday. Many of these cases are related to each other, and are linked to travel — either mainland or inter-island. Importantly, they are also linked to large gatherings.”
Berreman pointed to those being unvaccinated and lack of mask use as potential causes of the Kaua‘i surge.
”We are especially seeing cases related to large gatherings where mask use has been inconsistent. Our recent cases show us that non-vaccinated individuals are at high risk of infection in large gatherings,” Berreman said.
According to the DOH, over 1.6 million dosages of vaccines have been given in the state, for about 55% of the population inoculated, as of Monday. Kaua‘i has the highest rate of vaccination in the state, with 53% completing the vaccine.
“More than half of us are now fully vaccinated. If just half of those who are vaccinated successfully convince just one other person to get vaccinated, we will meet our goal of 70% fully-vaccinated. That’s just one other person — not one each day, or one each week, but one. Period,” Berreman said.
When the state reaches 60% fully-vaccinated, those who have been vaccinated in the United States may skip the travel quarantine with proof. When the state hits 70%, all travel restrictions will be lifted across the state, and on Kaua‘i, all other restrictions will also end.
Starting today, the state’s inter-island travel quarantine is lifted, but a Safe Travels application is still be needed. Those who have been fully vaccinated, with at least one dose originating from Hawai‘i, will be able to find a travel exemption by uploading their vaccination information to the Safe Travels platform.
“With new and more-transmissible variants on the rise even in Hawai‘i and on Kaua‘i, it’s important for you to know that being fully vaccinated also protects you from these variants,” Berreman said.
Pop-up vaccine clinics for those 18 and older will be held on Saturday, June 19, at the Anaina Hou farmers’ market in Kilauea and the Kaumakani Community Hall, and at Rob’s Good Time’s Grill in the Rice Shopping Center in Lihu‘e Saturday, June 26.
These events are sponsored by Ho‘ola Lahui Community Health Clinic, in partnership with Malama Pono Health Services, the DOH Kaua‘i District Health Office and the county. Registration is with the Ho‘ola Lahui hotline at 808-938-0938.
This story was updated at 12:06 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15 to correct that the clinic will be at the Kaumakani Community Hall, not Kaumakani Neighborhood Center.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.