The omicron variant of the novel coronavirus has been found in Hawaii, the state Department of Health confirmed Thursday.
“This isn’t reason for panic, but it is reason for concern,” Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char said in a written statement. “It’s a reminder the pandemic is ongoing. We need to protect ourselves by getting vaccinated, wearing masks, distancing as best we can and avoiding large crowds.”
Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc. on Monday identified a specimen with a molecular clue indicating it could be omicron. The State Laboratories Division performed expedited whole genome sequencing and Thursday determined the specimen is the omicron variant, the DOH said.
The COVID-19 positive individual is an Oahu resident with moderate symptoms who had previously been infected with COVID-19, but was never vaccinated, according to the DOH.
“This is a case of community spread. The individual has no history of travel,” the DOH said.
The variant had been detected in at least 23 countries and at least four other states as of late Thursday afternoon.
“Throughout the pandemic, DOH’s state lab has been a leader in conducting COVID-19 genomic sequencing, which is how the omicron variant was identified. Our surveillance system is working,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble. “This announcement serves as a reminder to be extremely careful to protect ourselves and our loved ones, especially during the holiday season.”
Anyone contacted by a case investigator from the DOH is asked to please cooperate in an effort to slow the transmission of COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms is asked to get tested and avoid other people. Unvaccinated people who come in close contact with COVID-19 positive individuals are advised to get tested.
In Hilo on Thursday, concerns about the omicron variant seemed to be increasing the demand for vaccine booster shots.
KTA Pharmacy’s community vaccination clinic had a steady stream of people coming in for boosters Thursday morning.
“It has felt busier the past couple days, with more people coming in for booster shots,” said KTA Director of Pharmacies Kerri Okamura. “It’s been steady today, and a few people have mentioned the variant.”
Wayne Miyashiro decided to get a second Johnson & Johnson shot to boost his protection from the virus.
“It was time for me to get the booster, so I was already planning on doing that,” Miyashiro said. “With the new variant popping up, I want to make sure I’m safe.”
As of Thursday, 241,385 people statewide have received booster shots, 1,017,216 people have completed a full vaccine regimen, and 404,870 are estimated to not be fully vaccinated.
In Hawaii County, 64% of people have been fully vaccinated.
This month, KTA is accepting walk-ins for first, second and third vaccine doses, as well as flu shots and keiki vaccinations, at the Butler Building in Hilo.
Walk-ins are welcome from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 6, Dec. 9, Dec. 13, Dec. 20 and Dec. 27.
Appointments also are available for first, second and third vaccine doses and keiki vaccinations through Bay Clinic at https://bayclinic.org/.
All three types of vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. are available at both Bay Clinic and KTA.
Other vaccine clinics in Hawaii County can be found at https://bit.ly/hivaccineinfo.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald