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Storms interrupt vaccine deliveries to Hawaii as the state sees a drop in cases

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                A masked pedestrian walked along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki on Wednesday.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    A masked pedestrian walked along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki on Wednesday.

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                The seven-day average positivity rate of COVID-19 tests on Oahu is 1.2%, according to state Department of Health data. Pedestrians crossed Royal Hawaiian and Kalakaua avenues in Waikiki on Wednesday.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    The seven-day average positivity rate of COVID-19 tests on Oahu is 1.2%, according to state Department of Health data. Pedestrians crossed Royal Hawaiian and Kalakaua avenues in Waikiki on Wednesday.

Bitter winter storms across much of the mainland this week so far have delayed shipment of 37,450 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Hawaii, with only 10,250 doses successfully delivered, the Department of Health reported Wednesday.

The DOH said 23,250 doses did not arrive Wednesday as scheduled due to the bad weather. The delayed shipments comprise 13,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine, including 4,400 doses bound for CVS/Longs Drugs stores, and 9,750 of the Pfizer vaccine.

On Tuesday, delivery of 14,200 Moderna doses was delayed, the department said.

So far this week the state had received only 9,750 Pfizer doses and 500 of the Moderna vaccine, and health officials said it is unclear whether further shipments will be delayed. Already the vaccine shortage has led the state’s two largest mass vaccination clinics to put on hold or reschedule some appointments until supplies can be assured.

The interruption in vaccine deliveries comes as Hawaii’s vaccination program and public adherence to COVID-19 precautions appeared to be doing the trick in stemming the spread of the virus that has sickened 26,935 and led to 427 fatalities.

The DOH on Wednesday reported just 29 new coronavirus cases statewide and one death, an Oahu man in his 70s who had underlying health conditions and died in a hospital.

Only 17 new cases statewide were reported Tuesday, but health officials have advised that temporary interruptions in electronic laboratory reporting on two occasions in recent days caused case numbers to be undercounted. Officials said they expect a “rebound effect” with higher daily case counts in the next day or two due to “catch-up reporting.”

Nevertheless, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Hawaii had “very good results this week,” with a seven-day average of new infections at 47 cases and a test positivity rate of 1%. The seven-day average for COVID-related hospitalizations was at 45, its lowest level since Aug. 1, Green said in his daily social media update.

Wednesday’s tally showed 39 patients with the virus were in Hawaii hospitals as of Tuesday morning, which Green called “a very good sign. It means fatalities should drop off to almost nothing soon.”

The Health Department’s weekly COVID vaccine summary released Wednesday showed that 268,428 doses have been administered statewide since December, with 12.5% of the population receiving at least one dose.

Of the 249,390 vaccinations delivered to the public, not including those administered at federal sites, 71% were first doses and 29% were second doses, according to the summary.

Of the 315,900 doses received from the federal government, 79% have been administered at nonfederal sites, a vast improvement in distribution for the state from just a few weeks ago.

Barring further supply disruptions, and anticipating approval of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, Green said he expects a total of 350,000 vaccinations by March 1, 600,000 by April 1, and 850,000 by May 1.

In the meantime, Hawaii Pacific Health, which operates a mass vaccination center at Pier 2, said it is not taking any more appointments due to uncertainty over vaccine shipments. The health care system administered 1,660 vaccinations at its Oahu sites on Tuesday and had 20,351 pending appointments for first and second doses. Altogether it has administered 56,641 vaccinations.

The Queen’s Health Systems said Tuesday that first-dose appointments this week at its Blaisdell Concert Hall clinic were being rescheduled to Saturday. Queen’s has administered 55,244 vaccinations at all sites as of Tuesday and has 19,835 pending appointments.

Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente announced Wednesday that “hundreds” of appointments are available to members and nonmembers at the Moanalua Medical Center and at a new vaccination center opening today at its Nanikeola Clinic in Waianae.

The Waianae clinic’s soft launch will provide shots today through Saturday in the mornings only, ramping up availability next week, when inoculations will be provided from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Kaiser spokeswoman Laura Lott said the delay in vaccine deliveries has had “no real impact for us. Our supply chain and pharmacy teams have been working hard managing inventory and anticipating supply and demand. We are right around 33,000 doses administered and have hundreds of appointments available this week and next.”

Under the state’s vaccination program, only individuals in so-called Phase 1-A and 1-B are currently eligible for vaccinations. These groups include health care workers, long-term care home residents and staff, adults 75 and older, and “frontline essential workers.”

The DOH weekly vaccine summary indicated 55% of Hawaii’s 75-and-over population had received at least one COVID vaccine dose.

Inoculations for individuals in Phase 1-C — people 65 and older, those with high-risk medical conditions and essential workers not included in the first groups — are expected to start in the spring.

As expected, Honolulu hit its metrics Wednesday for the first time for moving to the less restrictive Tier 3 of the city’s COVID-19 Reopening Framework from the current Tier 2, with a seven-day average case count of 33 and a seven-day average positivity rate of 1.2%, according to DOH data.

To advance to Tier 3, the seven-day average of new cases must be below 50 on two consecutive Wednesdays and the test positivity rate must be below 2.5%. If low numbers are reported again next week, Mayor Rick Blan­giardi may consider issuing an order to move to Tier 3 as early as Feb. 25.

The COVID metrics for the state’s other counties showed no new cases and a zero positivity rate for Kauai over the same period, while Hawaii County averaged two new cases and 0.5% positivity, and Maui, which has seen significant coronavirus clusters at a Kahului apartment complex, the Maui Community Correctional Center and workplace settings, averaged 11 new cases and 2% positivity.

New statewide infection cases reported Wednesday by the Health Department include 16 on Oahu, 10 on Maui, one on Hawaii island and two residents diagnosed outside of Hawaii. The statistics reflect the new infection cases reported to the department Monday.

Of the state’s total infection count, 810 cases were considered to be active, down 40 from the previous total, the DOH said.

Getting vaccinated

>> Nonmembers can register for Kaiser Permanente vaccinations online via kp.org/covidvaccine; members may schedule an appointment online via kp.org. Those unable to schedule an appointment online may call 432-2000 (TTY 711).

>> The Department of Health offers vaccination information and registration links at hawaiicovid19.com.

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

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