Health Department Reports Record High 1,167 New COVID-19 Cases
The state Department of Health reported Friday the highest number of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Officials did not announce any new pandemic restrictions but said they were being discussed.
Gov. David Ige announced 1,167 new COVID-19 cases — some of those cases were delayed from earlier in the week, but the average daily case count of the past three days is 729.
"We continue to trend in the wrong direction," Ige said at a press conference. "Our hospitals are filling up. They are treating younger and younger people."
Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char said the delta variant now accounts for over 80% of Hawaiʻi's cases, most of which can be attributed to community spread. Compared to visitors, returning residents are of the most concern because they mingle with family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and more, she said.
Oʻahu has 837 new cases, Hawaiʻi Island has 151, Maui has 109, Kauaʻi has 46, Molokaʻi has 6, and 18 cases were out-of-state.
Char was asked how close Hawaiʻi is to a health care crisis.
"We are there. We are on fire. When we have hospitals that are really worried about taking care of people, that’s a crisis," she said. "If you crash your car and you’re a trauma patient, and you get taken to a hospital and they’re really short-staffed and there are no other beds and people are busy working on other things, it’s going to impact you — even though you had nothing to do with COVID."
Char said more than 500 additional health professionals are coming to the state to help with the increased demand for medical facilities and staff. They will be coming in three waves with the first ones arriving Friday or Saturday.
As of Friday, there have been 49,564 total COVID-19 cases and 547 deaths, according to the state's COVID-19 dashboard. In the past 14 days, the state has reported 7,327 new COVID-19 cases.
"Stay home when you're sick, keep your children home when they're sick, avoid large gatherings," Ige said. "Believe that you can make a difference in the choices you make each and every day."
"As long as we can be cognizant of our actions, that will keep us safer," Char said.
As COVID-19 cases increase, so are vaccination rates. On Friday, the statewide vaccination rate was 61.2%. Oʻahu has the highest rate at 63% while Maui County has the lowest rate at 55%.
"If you are fully vaccinated, your chance of becoming infected with COVID is extremely low," Char stressed. "It will protect you from severe illness."
Late Thursday night, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted unanimously to recommend that people with weakened immune systems get a third shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. The CDC is expected to endorse the committee's action later Friday.
Providers generally wait for a CDC recommendation on vaccine use, even if the FDA has approved or authorized a vaccine, NPR reported. Immunocompromised people make up about 2.7% of U.S. adults, or around 7 million people.