New coronavirus variant found in Hawaii

The state Department of Health’s State Laboratories Division has confirmed the presence of a new COVID-19 variant in Hawaii.

The P.2 variant, which contains the E484K mutation, was identified through surveillance testing conducted on Oahu, the DOH said Friday.

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While the implications of this additional strain are unknown at this time, two individuals in Brazil who were previously infected with COVID were reinfected with the P.2 strain.

It is unclear whether this variant is more resistant to vaccines and antibodies gained through previous COVID infection, the DOH said.

While the P.2 variant is still being studied, people previously vaccinated or previously infected are not expected to become seriously ill if infected with the P.2 variant, the DOH said.

The P.2 variant is thought to have originated in Brazil. It has been found in several mainland states and Europe.

It has so far been detected in one individual who lives on Oahu who recently traveled to the mainland. That person is in isolation and known close contacts are in quarantine.

Another variant of concern is associated with an increase of COVID cases on Maui, the DOH said.

The B.1.429 variant, previously called L452R, was first detected in Hawaii almost four weeks ago.

Four instances of that variant have been identified on the Big Island this year.

The B.1.429 variant was first detected in California in December and may be more transmissible than other COVID strains but the DOH said there is still much to learn about this variant, which is still considered “under investigation” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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It is not clear how effective current vaccines are against B.1.429.

Three additional cases of the more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, also have been confirmed on Oahu, bringing the total number of B.1.1.7 cases in Hawaii to six. All six are on Oahu and are household contacts.

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