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Hawaii’s vaccine rollout climbs past 94,000

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Hawaii recorded 132 new coronavirus infections and four related deaths statewide Friday. A man wore a mask Friday while walking along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Hawaii recorded 132 new coronavirus infections and four related deaths statewide Friday. A man wore a mask Friday while walking along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki.

An estimated 94,003 people had received COVID-19 vaccinations in Hawaii as of Thursday, according to a preliminary count provided by the state Department of Health.

But officials said Friday that due to reporting delays from vaccination sites, the actual number is likely higher.

“It’s nowhere near where we want to be, but it shows we are off to a good start,” said state Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char, appearing via Zoom at Maui Mayor Michael Victorino’s daily press briefing Friday.

The Department of Health is responsible for distributing the vaccines it has been allocated by the federal government. Priority is being given to health care professionals, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, seniors, first responders and other “front-line essential workers.”

Char said health officials find out on Thursday afternoons what the state’s weekly allotment is, with the vaccines arriving the following week, delivered directly to the nearly 50 registered partners that administer the shots.

“There’s a new president in office right now, and we’re optimistic with the Biden administration that we will see an improvement in the amount of vaccine that we get,” she said.

Additionally, Pfizer and Moderna have been working “really, really hard” to manufacture more doses, and two new vaccines, from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, could be approved soon, Char said.

The latest vaccination estimates followed Friday’s Health Department announcement of four new coronavirus-related deaths on Oahu and 132 new infections. All four deaths involved patients with underlying health conditions. They included a man and a woman in their 60s and two women in their 90s.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 332 fatalities and 24,870 cases statewide.

Friday’s new cases included 98 on Oahu, 19 on Maui, five on Hawaii island, one on Kauai and nine residents diagnosed outside of Hawaii, officials said. As a result of updated information, one case from Oahu was re-categorized to Kauai, and another Oahu case was removed from the counts.

The statistics released Friday reflect new infections reported to the department as of noon Wednesday.

Additionally, health officials said they are investigating three COVID-19 clusters involving construction and industrial work sites in Maui County responsible for at least 25 cases. In all three clusters, carpooling and work-related mainland travel were identified as possible sources of virus transmission among employees.

With the ongoing vaccine rollout across the country and COVID case numbers in Hawaii “leveling off a bit from the holiday season,” Char said state officials have begun discussing possible parameters for revising quarantine and pre-arrival testing rules for travelers who have been vaccinated against the virus.

“We are looking at that right now, but at the current time we are still saying, ‘Please observe all the guidelines and rules we have in place.’ But we’re optimistic that we will get to a point where we can say, ‘OK, if you’ve had your vaccine, then we can modify things for you. Maybe you don’t need to keep testing before you travel, or maybe you can travel and not have to stay in quarantine,’” Char said.

“We’ve been looking at that very carefully and watching the federal guidance and research on that. … We’re optimistic that we’ll get there at some point. We’re not quite there, but it’s a good reason to encourage people to get vaccinated, because at some point we’ll get there, and won’t that be nice that we can travel again and see our loved ones and have more contact.”

In the meantime, Char said there have been reports of “some reactions” to the vaccine among those who have taken it locally.

“Thankfully, we haven’t had anything really serious or that resulted in anybody having to stay in the hospital or anything like that,” she said. “We have some people that have had some itching, a little bit of hives, and then a lot of people will complain of ‘Oh, my arm is really sore’ the next day, and typically after the second dose we see a little more of a heightened response where people will say, ‘Oh, yeah, my arm got really sore’ or ‘I’m kind of achy’ or ‘really tired’ for a day or so.”

But any adverse reaction to the COVID vaccine “pales in comparison” with the suffering brought on by the novel coronavirus, Char added. “Even though many people are getting a sore arm or a little bit of a reaction, I think it’s well worth it.”

Hawaii Pacific Health’s Vaccination Center at Pier 2 reported Friday that 6,805 people had received COVID-19 inoculations as of Thursday, nearly 60% of whom were age 75 or older.

An additional 8,285 people are scheduled to receive the shot at the center, which opened Monday, and with the anticipated receipt of increased vaccine inventory, the health care system said 9,741 appointments are available to adults 75 or older and other priority groups identified by the state Health Department.

On Thursday alone, 1,724 vaccinations were administered, with 53% going to folks age 75 or older and the rest given to other priority groups.

The Vaccination Center at Pier 2 is providing vaccinations by appointment only Monday through Saturday. Adults 75 or older may complete the online appointment request form at HawaiiPacificHealth.org/COVIDVaccine.

A breakdown of coronavirus cases by island since the start of the outbreak shows 20,230 on Oahu, 2,113 in Hawaii County, 1,550 on Maui, 177 on Kauai, 106 on Lanai and 25 on Molokai. There were also 669 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state.

Health officials also said Friday that of the state’s total infection count, 1,838 cases were considered active, a decrease of 115 cases. By island, Oahu had 1,326 active cases, Maui had 354, the Big Island had 139 and Kauai had 19, according to the state’s latest tally.

Of all the confirmed Hawaii infection cases, 1,647 have required hospitalization, with five new hospitalizations reported Friday. According to the Hawaii COVID-19 Data dashboard, 100 coronavirus patients were in Hawaii hospitals as of Thursday morning, with 23 in intensive care units and 21 on ventilators.

Friday’s seven-day average case count for Oahu was 77, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 2.9%, according to Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi. In order to move from current Tier 2 measures to less restrictive Tier 3, the seven-day average of new cases must be below 50 on two consecutive Wednesdays, and the seven-day average positivity rate must be below 2.5%.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

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