September 21, 2022

Experts urge vigilance as Hawaii appears on track for another COVID surge

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Health officials are warning Hawaii could be heading for another COVID surge as cases and hospitalizations rise for a seventh straight week.

In its latest report, the state Department of Health confirmed 5,768 hundred new infections and six more COVID-related deaths.

Experts say now is the time to take precautions as the state heads into graduation season.

Last week, the state averaged 722 positive test results each day, not counting positives at home. Meanwhile, there are also 91 people currently hospitalized with COVID and eight people in intensive care.

Related coverage: Hawaii Reports Nearly 5,800 COVID Cases In One Week; 6 additional deaths

“These numbers have steadily increased,” said DOH spokesperson Brooks Baehr.

“I believe it was March 27, we only had 11 people in the hospital with COVID.”

The state Department of Education is extending its indoor mask mandate through the summer.

Acting Superintendent of Schools Keith Hayashi told a press conference Wednesday that individual schools can make changes to graduation ceremonies.

“Schools have the flexibility to determine event-specific details to maintain the health and safety of all attendees,” Hayashi said. “The number of guests allowed and lei donations, for example, may look different on different campuses based on location considerations and other factors.”

The DOH previously announced two clusters linked to proms and last week more than 1,000 cases were reported across all schools. But Hayashi said only one school, Molokai Middle, had to switch to distance learning due to health and staffing issues.

“As an additional safety measure that schools can use for events such as graduation, we have distributed half a million home test kits to schools over the past month,” Hayashi said.

Apart from schools, retailers are also worried about rising COVID infections.

It’s usually a busy time for them and they’re worried about customers staying home.

“As graduation season approaches, we’re a little worried about that,” said Tina Yamaki of the Retail Merchants Association. “People still buy lei or gifts. So that’s a concern for us. »

State epidemiologist Sarah Kemble said people have let their guard down since the indoor mask mandate was dropped.

“The main point now is that masking is going to be more critical as these numbers continue to rise,” Kemble said. “And as we see an impact on people who are hospitalized and seriously ill.”

There are no changes to statewide rules other than in schools.

The state health department also wants to remind people that COVID treatments are available for those at high risk.

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