Hawaii, Masked and Vaccinated, Still Falls Prey to Delta Strain
(Bloomberg) -- Hawaii has one of the country’s most comprehensive mask mandates and a highly effective vaccine campaign. Despite that, Covid-19 cases on the islands are climbing with a ferocity that’s outstripping every other U.S. state.
On Thursday, Hawaii recorded 655 new cases, a record since the beginning of the pandemic. Test-positivity rates surged to the highest in a year at 6.9%, according to the state’s health department.
The situation testifies to the delta variant’s strength and ability to penetrate walls of protection, restrictions and mandates. Those vaccinated have been mostly spared severe infection and illness. For those who haven’t, the risk is significant and growing.
“In Hawaii, people who are going to the hospital are unvaccinated people,” said Michael Urban, a professor in the school of health sciences at the University of New Haven in Connecticut.
Seven-day average cases are up 107% in the past week, the steepest rise among the states, bringing the cumulative total to 42,135, with 535 deaths as of Aug. 4. The rate stands at about 194 per 100,000, roughly in line with the national average.
Average daily hospital admissions have more than doubled in the past week to about 22, which translates to about 1.6 per 100,000 residents, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data. That’s still less than a fifth the rate of hospitalization in hot spot Florida, but the trajectory is alarming.
Covid patients occupied about 15% of adult intensive-care unit beds, up from about 11% at the end of July.
Until recently, the Hawaiian archipelago stood out as a success story. Its case spikes were manageable, thanks in part to a strict policy that required new arrivals to self-quarantine or show a recent negative test.
This summer, officials relaxed those entry restrictions by lifting the testing requirement for vaccinated U.S. travelers and allowing visitors to move around the islands.
That’s fueled a surge of visitors in search of island bliss. Traveler counts have been climbing since April and now exceed 2019 levels, according to data from the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
Still, most cases have been among locals, and health officials have warned of spread at gatherings like weddings. Young adults are the primary vectors, with people 18 to 29 accounting for about a quarter of the documented cases.
Vaccine coverage in Hawaii is among the highest in the U.S. About 72% of the population has received at least one dose, behind only Vermont and Massachusetts.
Nationally, the U.S. is reporting a seven-day case rate of about 190 per 100,000, the highest since February.
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