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State health officials monitor COVID variants as the virus continues to spread

AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy

State health officials are monitoring COVID-19 variants BA.4 and BA.5 as the virus continues to spread in Hawaiʻi.

Dr. Tarquin Collis, the chief of infectious disease at Kaiser Permanente Hawaiʻi, predicts an uptick in cases in another month if trends of BA.5 in Europe and across the country hold.

Collis says he’s seen a high number of infections in recent weeks because new variants are able to evade the immunity built up from prior vaccinations or infections.

While many of those infected are avoiding hospitalization, he says we still need to keep our guard up.

"I think it's worth, despite an overall level of pandemic fatigue, being mindful of the fact that boosters still help. I think if you're over 50 and you haven't had a shot yet in 2022, it's smart to get one," Collis said.

"I think masking is still a very personal decision, but one that I think we should make in certain circumstances that makes sense for us individually, especially indoors where there's poor ventilation," he told HPR.

Collis says there are also a lot of treatment options available if you become infected.

When it comes to children, while infections have been relatively modest, COVID can still be debilitating to a child even if they don’t end up in the hospital, he says.

And because so little is known about COVID's long-term effects, it’s worth preventing infection if possible.

This interview aired on The Conversation on July 12, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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