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Hawaii News

Queen’s Medical Center looks into omicron cases among staff, patient

                                <strong>Jason Chang: </strong>
                                <em>The Queen’s Medical Center president advises caution at holiday parties — high-risk for the spread of COVID-19 </em>
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Jason Chang:

The Queen’s Medical Center president advises caution at holiday parties — high-risk for the spread of COVID-19

Six staff and a patient at The Queen’s Medical Center on Punchbowl Street may have been infected with the omicron variant of COVID-19.

The Queen’s Health Systems said Tuesday in a news release that test results for the seven cases, which were identified during the past seven days, were suggestive of the variant due to an “S gene dropout,” although officials are still investigating those results.

Polymerase chain reaction tests for COVID-19 work by detecting multiple genetic targets in the coronavirus, but for the omicron variant one of those targets is not detected. This gene dropout would have to be followed by genome sequencing to confirm the presence of the variant.

Cedric Yamanaka, spokesman for Queen’s, said it’s not clear when it can confirm the omicron cases, although sequencing takes several days, according to officials from the state Department of Health.

If confirmed, the Queen’s cases would join the 12 active cases of the variant in Hawaii that the DOH already confirmed Friday.

Even if they aren’t, DOH’s official number of omicron cases is expected to grow sometime this week when the department provides an update on the coronavirus variants in Hawaii, DOH spokesman Brooks Baehr said Tuesday.

“The expectation is that omicron is moving in,” Baehr said. “We wouldn’t be surprised to see it become the dominant variant. That’s just based on what we’re seeing elsewhere.” Queen’s is advising vaccinated people to get booster shots and unvaccinated people to consider getting their first doses.

“To prevent an infection with COVID, please remain vigilant as we enjoy the holiday season together,” said Jason Chang, chief operating officer of The Queen’s Health Systems and president of The Queen’s Medical Center, in a statement. “Avoid large crowds, wear your mask and be careful at holiday parties as they can be high-risk situations for spreading COVID.”

The Health Department on Tuesday reported 214 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 89,593 cases.

No new virus-related fatalities were reported, so the statewide COVID-19 death toll remains 1,058.

The state’s official coronavirus-related death toll includes 787 fatalities on Oahu, 145 on Hawaii island, 101 on Maui, 13 on Kauai, one on Molokai and 11 Hawaii residents who died outside the state.

Tuesday’s new confirmed and probable infection count by island includes 169 new cases on Oahu, 23 on Hawaii island, nine on Maui, six on Kauai and seven Hawaii residents diagnosed outside the state.

Health officials also said that of the state’s total infection count, 1,721 cases were considered active. Officials say they consider infections reported in the past 14 days to be a “proxy number for active cases.” The state’s number of active cases increased Tuesday by 138.

By island, Oahu has 1,191 active cases, the Big Island has 165, Kauai has 165, Maui has 189 and Molokai has 11.

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