Hawaii’s coronavirus numbers surge as delta variant spreads

HONOLULU (AP) — Like many other places across the United States, Hawaii is now experiencing a resurgence of coronavirus cases, rivaling the largest wave of infections seen in the islands in 2020.

On Wednesday, Hawaii’s new coronavirus case numbers hit triple digits for the seventh straight day, repeating a post-Fourth of July surge last year.

Health officials said the spike is associated with the delta variant.

“It’s not as deadly as what we were experiencing a year ago,” said Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii. “We’re much better at treating COVID, and most older people are protected. But we could quite easily hit 100 patients in the hospital at the rate we’re going, and that’s not a good thing.”

The seven-day average in the state of about 1.4 million people is now 113, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday. The positivity rate is 3.5%, which is higher than it was at the same time last year.

About 97% of new COVID-19 infections in Hawaii are among unvaccinated people, health officials said. Nearly 60% of the population is fully vaccinated.

“It actually is quite alarming because the infection rate in the unvaccinated population is actually higher now than what it was in the entire population last year,” Raethel said.

“While people are getting vaccinated, this delta variant is continuing to spread and potentially continuing to mutate further,” Raethel added. “Either we lock down the economy again or figure out how to get more people vaccinated to slow down the spread.”

Hawaii officials have said they will drop all pandemic-related restrictions once 70% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green said coronavirus case counts are expected to rise “because the delta variant is very contagious and too many people remain unvaccinated.”

There were 72 patients with COVID-19 in hospitals on Wednesday, including more than a dozen in intensive care units, Green said. A 23-year-old and 32-year-old, both unvaccinated, were among those in the ICU, he said.

“It’s deja vu for a smaller population,” Green said. “It’s deja vu for only a third of the state and not the whole state.”

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