New COVID-19 variant now dominant in Hawaii

  • Brooks Baehr

The state Department of Health confirmed Thursday that BA.2 is now the dominant COVID-19 variant throughout the state.

The variant accounts for 70% of all cases, up 40% from two weeks prior.


For Hawaii County, the BA.2 variant accounts for 68% of cases.

“The highly transmissible BA.2 variant is more and more prevalent in Hawaii,” said DOH spokesman Brooks Baehr. “This is the fourth straight week we have seen an increase in the average daily case count.”

The statewide average daily case count released Wednesday was 164, up significantly from the 87 listed on March 23.

Positivity rates have steadily increased throughout the month as well. On March 23, the rate was 2.9%, followed by 3.3% on March 30, 4% on April 6 and 4.9% on Wednesday.

“There are several reasons for this,” said Baehr, citing the lifting of indoor masking requirements, the ending of the Safe Travels program and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s classification of the state’s risk as “low,” leading to more gatherings and in-person events.

“People can reduce transmission by continuing to wear masks indoors, staying home when they are sick, and getting vaccinated and boostered,” Baehr said.

While Hilo Medical Center has seen an uptick in ER visits, up to five for COVID, it is significantly lower than the over 40 that occurred during the first omicron surge, according to spokeswoman Elena Cabatu.

The BA.2 variant became the dominant form of SARS-CoV-2 worldwide on March 22, according to the World Health Organization.

BA.2 is considered a sublineage of omicron, but the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group emphasized it should be monitored as “distinct” by public health authorities.

Initial reports from the WHO noted BA.2 has a growth advantage over BA.1, the original omicron strain, indicating BA.2 is more transmissible.

The DOH also confirmed Thursday that new omicron variant XE, which contains genetic material derived both from BA.1 and BA.2, was detected in Hawaii on Oahu.

The WHO indicated XE is roughly 10% more transmissible than BA.2.

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