The number of daily new coronavirus cases today spiked to 622, the highest since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Hawaii Department of Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char said on Spotlight Hawaii this morning.
The state later today also reported three more coronavirus-related deaths. The deaths were two men on Oahu, one his 60s and one in his 50s, and a Maui man in his 60s. All three were hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
The new infection numbers include some cases that were not reported Wednesday due to “an electronic lab reporting system interruption,” according to the Health Department.
On Wednesday, a partial count of 85 new cases were reported, followed by 234 on Thursday. With 622 today, the average of the three days would be 314.
“We’re very, very concerned about it and at this point there’s no real reason to think that the trend will change,” Char said. “Without us doing something different I think the message remains, we know what works. The No. 1 tool we have for this pandemic is to get vaccinated. We know it’s safe and we know it works.”
Char said there is widespread community transmission at gatherings where people are not wearing masks, including restaurants and bars.
She said people should continue wearing masks, keeping a distance, and avoiding large gatherings — and remember to stay home when sick.
“We’re seeing more spread through people who have symptoms even if they’re minor, being out and about, going to work, mingling with family members, and spreading the virus,” she said. “So get vaccinated, wear your mask, stay home if you’re sick, and avoid large gatherings.”
Gov. David Ige this afternoon said the 3-day average of more than 300 cases is alarming, and also emphasized the need to continue safety measures everyone has known for the past year and a half.
“The pandemic is not over and the best way forward is for people to get vaccinated,” said Ige. “We do know that the vaccinations are safe. It’s the best way to keep our community healthy and safe, so if you haven’t been vaccinated please do so.”
Otherwise, he said, people should stay home when sick, wear masks indoors as well as outdoors when 6 feet of distance can not be maintained.
“We know that these actions that you can take individually and that we need to take collectively as a community does help to slow the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
The 622 new confirmed and probable infection count reported today includes 359 new cases on Oahu, 111 on Hawaii island, 74 on Maui, eight on Kauai, and 70 Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state.
The statistics released today reflect new infection cases reported to the department on Wednesday, and the previous under-counted cases from earlier this week.
The highest single-day record of new cases prior to today was at 355 during a surge on Aug. 13, which included 86 from an existing cluster at the Oahu Community Correctional Center.
The total number of confirmed and probable coronavirus cases by island since the start of the outbreak are 30,406 on Oahu, 5,083 on Maui, 3,950 in Hawaii County, 539 on Kauai, 117 on Lanai, and 81 on Molokai. There are also 1,749 Hawaii residents who were diagnosed outside of the state.
Of the state’s total infection count, 2,653 cases were considered to be active. Officials say they consider infections reported in the past 14 days to be a “proxy number for active cases.” The state’s total number of active cases increased today by 389.
The state’s official coronavirus-related death toll includes 411 fatalities on Oahu, 60 on Maui, 58 on Hawaii island, two on Kauai, and three Hawaii residents who died outside the state. The U.S. coronavirus-related death toll today is more than 612,000 and the nationwide infection tally is over 34.7 million.
The current spike is due mostly to the highly transmissible delta variant — now the dominant strain in Hawaii as well as the nation — and community spread in all four major counties.
An internal report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, warns that the delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox, and more likely to break through protections given by vaccines, according to the New York Times.
The report also found that fully vaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections carry just as much virus as those who are unvaccinated. This is what prompted CDC’s reversal earlier this week and recommendation that everyone wear masks at public settings indoors, whether vaccinated or not.
When asked, Char also said that with the “advent of the delta variant,” the state may now need to vaccinate more than 70% of its population to reach herd immunity against the coronavirus.
“It really is a good demonstration that the virus determines what herd immunity is and what keeps us safe,” she said. “I think the number is likely going to be higher, that we will need more people to be fully vaccinated and protected against the virus in order to have a safe community.”
The latest Hawaii COVID-19 vaccine summary says 1,754,544 vaccine doses have been administered through state and federal distribution programs as of Thursday, up 2,928 from a day earlier. Health officials say that 60.1% of the state’s population is now fully vaccinated, and 66.9% have received at least one dose.
Of all the confirmed Hawaii infection cases, 2,694 have required hospitalizations, with 10 new hospitalizations — six on Oahu and two each on Maui and the Big Island — reported today.
Fifteen hospitalizations in the overall statewide count are Hawaii residents who were diagnosed and treated outside the state. Of the 2,164 hospitalizations within the state, 2,179 have been on Oahu, 315 on Maui, 163 on the Big Island, 16 on Kauai, five on Lanai, and one on Molokai.
According to today’s update on the department’s Hawaii COVID-19 Data dashboard, a total of 117 patients with the virus are in Hawaii hospitals, with 23 in intensive care units and 12 on ventilators. The last time that Hawaii had more than 100 COVID patients in the hospitals was Jan. 29.
For the first time since late January, Hawaii hospitalizations of COVID patients in the state surpassed 100 Tuesday and they have continued to rise over the week.
Health officials counted 11,677 new COVID-19 test results in today’s tally, for a statewide positivity rate of over more than 5%. The state’s 7-day average positivity rate is 5.1%, according to the Hawaii COVID-19 Data dashboard.