Monday, March 04, 2024|
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Age-adjusted rates of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations by vaccination status in adults 18 or order, October 2021 to March 2022
State Health Director Libby Char said Friday she’s concerned the recent statewide rise in COVID-19 cases will become more pronounced during graduation season.
“I would ask people to please, please, if you’re going to a large gathering, be smart,” Char said during a livestream interview. “And if you have the option, just avoid large gatherings for now. And the same messages of go get vaccinated, get your booster shots and wear your mask.
“If you’re going to be indoors, wear your mask, because we know that works. And I believe the numbers are going to go up for a bit more before they come down.”
The average number of new cases daily reported statewide was 722 over the past week, with Hawaii County averaging 93 of those cases. Char said several factors are fueling the increase.
“It’s been trending up for the past seven weeks,” she said. “We sort of expected to see a little bit of a rise after spring break. But I think between that and the Safe Travels program going away, and all the restrictions going away, people are still active, there’s still a lot of travel, and there’s the new subvariants — we’re just seeing the numbers take off again.”
Three of the state’s four counties, Hawaii, Honolulu and Maui, are in the medium range for positivity levels, at 11.8%, 15.5% and 15%, respectively, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kauai County, however is in the red, or high range, according to the CDC, with a 20.3% positivity rate.
“The data that the CDC looks at to determine community levels has to do with … the number of infections per 100,000 people, and it also looks at the hospital capacity and a bunch of other factors,” Char said. “And so, I think it’s a combination of there being a lot of COVID out there in the community, and then, Kauai doesn’t have as much hospital capacity.
“… They’re in the high community level right now. But really, when you look at what you’re supposed to do differently, I think we, as a community, have been pretty solid from the get-go. And … we know what to do. It’s wear your mask, especially if you’re indoors, go get vaccinated, get boosted, take things outdoors when you can. And I think the thing to add now is to pay attention to gathering size again.”
Char estimated COVID infection numbers are five to six times higher than reported, because the state doesn’t receive positive results of the over-the-counter home tests that have become increasingly available to the public.
“The thing to watch is if there’s a trend. And there’s no question it’s been trending up,” Char said. “But we’re not getting the data from the home test kits. … So, the data may be a little bit skewed in terms of percent positivity if only the really, really sick people are getting sent to do PCR tests or are getting tested in a hospital.”
According to Char, there are about 300,000 unvaccinated individuals in Hawaii, and with that in mind, those attending graduation celebrations should make good decisions.
“If I was going to a graduation, I would sure hope that it’s outdoors and that it’s spread out to the best of the venue’s ability,” she said. “And I would absolutely wear my mask. And it would sure be nice to know that people who are at that graduation are vaccinated. That’s going to protect them, and the more people in the crowd that are protected, the less chance of spreading that virus to one another.”
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