LIHU‘E — Health officials are unsure if a spike in cases on Kaua‘i is linked to the delta variant of the coronavirus.
This week, the state Department of Health has reported 18 new cases, 11 on Wednesday and seven on Thursday.
“We don’t know yet whether this increase in community spread is related to the presence of the delta variant on Kaua‘i, but there’s a good chance that it is,” said Lauren Guest, public health preparedness planner with the DOH Kaua‘i District Health Office, in a special COVID-19 briefing Thursday.
“We will know more as DOH performs more genomic sequencing, but that information is always delayed by about two weeks.”
Thus far, the DOH has found only two cases of the variant on-island, in previously-reported cases.
Guest reported that only 2% of COVID-19 cases statewide have been in vaccinated residents.
“The majority of these vaccine-breakthrough cases have been asymptomatic or have experienced mild disease,” she said. “It is true that vaccine does not protect 100% from all disease, but protection from severe disease, hospitalization and death is much better than no protection at all.”
Guest said there has been a rise in community-spread cases, but has not identified new clusters.
“This increase in cases represents community spread of disease primarily among unvaccinated residents,” Guest said. “The majority of these cases are not related to any previously-announced cases, which is highly concerning. We have not identified any new clusters yet, but it is possible we will do so in the coming days.”
County officials continue to urge vaccinations, as most cases the county has seen are among those who are unvaccinated.
“Particularly with news of the delta variant being in our community, now is the time for people to get a vaccine if you can. Do it for yourself and your loved ones, especially those who are not eligible,” Mayor Derek Kawakami said.
The DOH reported that 58% of residents have been fully-vaccinated in the state, with about 63% initiating a first dose of two.
On Tuesday, July 8, the county will move to its Tier 5, which will allow restaurants to operate at 75% capacity, up from 50%. This tier also allows social gatherings of 25 indoors and 75 outdoors. The county can move to this tier because the state is projecting a 60% fully-vaccinated rate to be hit then.
“Once the state reaches 70% of fully-vaccinated residents, we will eliminate the tier chart and its restrictions. Help us reach 70% by getting vaccinated,” Kawakami said.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.