More omicron cases confirmed

Two additional cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant were confirmed Monday in Hawaii.

According to a report from the state Department of Health, two vaccinated Oahu residents were infected with the omicron variant within the last few weeks.

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Neither resident reported travel outside of the state, suggesting the variant is being spread within the community. Neither resident was hospitalized as a result of infection, and both reported mild to moderate symptoms.

The DOH’s State Laboratories Division is sequencing an additional eight potential omicron cases received since Friday.

That division also is performing molecular surveillance of neighbor island specimens this week to search for omicron cases, but so far there is no indication of omicron spread outside of Oahu.

Because one person who tested positive for the omicron variant attended events hosted by Christ Embassy Church on Oahu, the DOH is advising anyone who has attended events hosted by that church on or after Nov. 23 to test for COVID-19. Members of the church are also believed to have recently traveled to a country “identified by the (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as having a high risk for omicron variant cases.”

The CDC has also informed the DOH that “a dozen or more” Hawaii residents were listed as attendees of Anime NYC 2021, an anime convention in New York that attracted 53,000 attendees in November, one of whom was the first person to be confirmed infected by the omicron variant in the U.S. DOH said it will reach out to those attendees to assess their condition.

“It is imperative that all Hawaii residents work together to limit the spread of the omicron variant,” said State Epidemiologist Sarah Kemble in a statement. “These additional cases and points of exposure show that omicron is in our community, and the best thing we can do is to get vaccinated, continue to wear a mask and get tested if you feel ill or had contact with a COVID-19 positive individual.”

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Much is still unknown about the omicron variant, which first surfaced in South Africa last month. The World Health Organization reports that it is still unclear whether the variant is more transmissible or causes more severe illness than other variants, but preliminary evidence suggests that people who have already been infected by previous strains could become re-infected more easily with omicron.

Gov. David Ige said during a livestreamed interview Monday that the rise of yet another coronavirus variant in the state does not necessarily herald changes to the state’s travel policies, saying that there are no current plans to change the Safe Travels program.

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