HONOLULU ( Associated Press) – Hawaii reported 1,511 new coronavirus cases on Thursday as state officials say the Omicron version is spreading widely across the islands.
Hawaii’s one-day record 1,678 cases were recorded in late August at the height of the delta surge.
The new case numbers are the latest in a week of high infection numbers for the state, which averaged around 100 daily cases in early December.
Hawaii has reported the fastest increase in new COVID-19 cases nationally in the past 14 days, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Libby Char, director of the Hawaii Department of Health, told a news conference Thursday that people need to be vaccinated, noting that more than 370,000 Hawaii residents have not had their shots.
She also noted that the rate at which people get boosters in the state is low, but stressed that additional protection is key to flattening the curve.
“I’m not sure why it’s so low and we’re trying to figure it out,” Char said. “People just know that two shots are enough.”
Dr. Rochelle Valensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week that the data shows the Omron is more transmittable than the delta variant.
Given that, full vaccination “should really be a three-shot series,” Char said.
The state has a test positivity rate of around 8% and the most populous island of Oahu has a positivity rate of over 10%, Char said.
The first confirmed case of the type Omicron in Hawaii was announced on December 2. As of Wednesday, there were at least 74 confirmed cases of Omicron.
According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaii, with a population of about 1.5 million people, received more than 600,000 travelers in December.
Hawaii requires travelers to be vaccinated or provide a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of arrival, or face a 10-day quarantine.
Four said state officials are discussing the possibility of needing a booster shot to avoid travel quarantine or testing, as well as possibly shortening the window allowed for receiving a negative test, but so far No changes have been made.
“The public health recommendation would be that you get tested as close to flight time as possible and that you have your vaccinations and your booster shot,” Char said. “But understand that there are challenges in implementing this.”
The state previously required all travelers to be tested before arrival to avoid quarantine, but removed that mandate as vaccines became more widely available.
“If you can avoid traveling now, avoid traveling now,” Char said. “Don’t put yourself in those situations.”
The US now requires international travelers to be tested within 24 hours of their travel, regardless of nationality or vaccination status.
While confirmed cases of Omicron are still on Oahu, other islands hope the version has already arrived. Char said health officials are investigating suspected Omicron cases on Maui and the Big Island.
Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth warned people to be careful over the holidays and to avoid large gatherings, especially indoors.
“We don’t want anyone to waste time with friends, family and loved ones,” Roth said in a statement. “After all, that’s what the holidays are about. However, we are saying that people should spend time in a way that is safe and protects those we love and others in our community.
He suggested that people clenched fists and doubt, swapping hugs and traditional Hawaiian greetings.
“Our island is special because everyone cares about everyone else, and that’s how we’ve made it through the pandemic so far, and that’s how we’ll keep it going,” Roth said.
Kauai has no confirmed cases of oomicrons, but the island has seen a surge in new infections.
“With this rapid increase in cases, we can assume that the Omicron variant is on Kauai,” said Kauai District Officer for the State Department of Health, Dr. Janet Bereman said in a statement.
The island’s mayors have made no changes to the current coronavirus restrictions, most of which were lifted in early December.
“We’re not going to impose restrictions anymore,” said Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, who said the island’s vaccination and testing policy is adequate for businesses and events. “It’s about making good decisions, so it’s about personal responsibility. Don’t go to a place if you fear it will be something that will make you sick. But if you go and are indoors, So wear your mask.
Blangiardi recently allowed bars and large indoor events to resume. There have been a cluster of cases at two of Honolulu’s biggest nightclubs in recent weeks. Masks are not required while eating and drinking and the limit of living with distance rules has been removed.
The state recently reported a cluster at an event in Waikiki’s Hilton Hawaiian Village.