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Health Officials On Alert For New Virus Variant In Hawaii

AP Photo/Caleb Jones

HONOLULU — Residents have been warned to be extra vigilant and continue to follow safety guidelines as cases of a new seemingly more contagious strain of the coronavirus have recently been reported in the U.S., health officials said.
The Hawaii Department of Health, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said there have been increased efforts to find the new variant and to understand how it is transmissible, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. It has not been detected in Hawaii.

Confirmed cases of the new coronavirus strains have been found in the U.K., South Africa and in the U.S. in Colorado, California and Florida.

"All we know is that we have not yet found it," State Laboratories Division Dr. Edward Desmond said.

"We're going to cast a wide net to see if we can quickly find it when it is here and then we can make decisions about whether that should impact our community mitigation measures."

The vaccines being distributed are thought to be effective against the new strain. Health officials have said about 25,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered statewide. Local pharmacies received a surprise shipment of 3,800 doses this week, boosting the total delivered in December to 65,250.

The state health department on Friday reported 241 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and one death, bringing the totals since the start of the pandemic in March to more than 21,600 cases and 289 deaths.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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