Hawaii’s first pediatric COVID-19 death this week was a wake-up call for parents that children are not immune to the disease.
On Tuesday, the state recorded its first child fatality in a boy under the age of 11 who traveled to Hawaii with his parents from the U.S. mainland.
Health officials said the boy experienced COVID-19 symptoms within hours after arriving in the islands and was taken to a hospital, where he died. Officials said the boy had underlying health conditions, but did not reveal what those were, nor his exact age, to protect the family’s privacy.
He and his parents — who both tested negative before traveling and were fully vaccinated — were visiting Hawaii from another state. The boy was not tested prior to travel, which is not required for those under age 5 according to Safe Travels Hawaii rules.
“Even though in children, severe cases are not as frequent and symptoms can be milder, children can get COVID,” said Dr. Douglas Kwock, a pediatrician at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. “It doesn’t mean just because they’re younger, they’re not immune from it or protected from it. That’s the most important takeaway.”
Kwock advises parents to keep an eye out for symptoms of COVID similar to the ones adult get, including fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell, fatigue and weakness. It is better to seek help sooner rather than later.
Also, parents of children with underlying conditions such as asthma, heart conditions, diabetes or obesity, which place them at higher risk, should be extra vigilant.
Statewide, the number of coronavirus cases among children remains relatively low compared with younger adults, with 12% of cases made up of those 17 and younger. There have been more than 3,700 COVID-19 cases in the state in people 17 and under, including just those diagnosed in Hawaii, with 33 of them hospitalized, according to the latest data available.
Kwock said he has also treated children and teens with multi-inflammatory syndrome, a post-COVID type of syndrome that can be quite severe, as well.
“This is another reason we should be vaccinating ourselves in our community,” said Kwock, also Hawaii Pacific Health vice president of medical affairs. “We’re talking about a population of individuals that don’t have access to vaccines yet. So the best way we as a community can protect these children is for ourselves to get vaccinated.”
Three more deaths
The boy who died while visiting Hawaii was counted as the state’s 479th death.
On Wednesday, the death toll from COVID-19 in Hawaii continued to climb, with three new coronavirus-related deaths among men in their 50s and 60s, bringing the total to 482.
One man on Oahu in his 50s, with underlying conditions, died at the hospital. The other two who died were Maui men in their 60s. One had underlying conditions, and had been hospitalized. The other was in hospice care.
The Hawaii Department of Health on Wednesday also reported 69 additional infections statewide, bringing the state’s totals since the start of the pandemic to 32,110 cases.
The new cases included 55 on Oahu, 10 on Maui County, two on Kauai, one on Hawaii island, and one Hawaii resident diagnosed out of state.
The seven-day average of daily new cases remained at 77, and the positivity rate at 1.4%.
The state Health Department counts COVID-19 deaths as well as cases diagnosed in Hawaii in its statistics regardless of whether they are residents or nonresidents, according to spokesman Brooks Baehr.
To date, seven of the 482 deaths were nonresidents.
Hawaii continues to vaccinate residents ages 16 and up statewide, although the pace has slowed, particularly on neighbor islands.
By Wednesday, the state reported a total of 1,181,972 doses had been administered, about 9,000 more than on Tuesday.
“We’ve come to the point where the people who were were eager to get it, who would run through a wall to get it, have already received it,” said Baehr.
Now, he said, the state is offering vaccination opportunities for those who said they planned to get vaccinated, but are taking their time.
“We’d like them to know that now is your time,” he said. “There are appointments available. Come on down.”
The state today resumes the use of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which will be offered at Windward Community College.
Many of Oahu’s vaccination clinics are now offering walk-in availability for those who do not want the hassle of making appointments.
Hawaii Pacific Health’s Pier 2 Vaccination Center is offering walk-in availability from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. this week. Appointments today will also be extended until 7 p.m.
Appointments can be scheduled at Hawaii PacificHealth.org/COVID 19Vaccine.
Kaiser Permanente also accepts appointments at kp.org/covidvaccine for the Kapolei Consolidated Theatre site Tuesday through Saturday, but walk-ins will be accepted after 11 a.m.
And starting Friday, the Leeward Community College vaccination clinic will begin accepting walk-ins. Visit oneoahu.org/lcc-vaccine for more information.
For more options, visit hawaiicovid19.com/vaccination-registration.