State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble said the new variant was found in an unvaccinated adult resident under the age of 65 who was previously infected with the coronavirus in 2020.
On Monday, Hawaii’s health department received a notification from Diagnostic Laboratory Services, Inc. of a specimen with a molecular clue that indicated it may have been the omicron variant. The State Laboratories Division then conducted “expedited whole genome sequencing” which positively identified this specimen as the omicron variant.
“This isn’t reason for panic, but it is reason for concern. 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,” said Department of Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char.
Dr. Kemble said this initial case is from Oahu; however, more specific information on what part of the island wasn’t immediately released. The patient has experienced mild to moderate symptoms, including headaches, body aches and coughing.
The patient is currently isolated at home and has not been hospitalized, nor did they report traveling.
“There was no travel history outside the state, signifying that community transmission of the omicron strain has already occurred in Hawaii,” stated Dr. Kemble.
She added that it is possible this person may have been exposed by coming into contact with other travelers, but this connection has not been confirmed as of Thursday. It is also currently unknown whether this person attended any major events, as well as what their occupation is.
Health officials are continuing to investigate this case and monitor the omicron variant in Hawaii.
“Some of the concerns about this variant are that it could potentially breakthrough a vaccine and natural infection. So, there is still a lot to be learned about this variant, a lot of unknowns but we are watching it closely… The bottom line in terms of prevention measures, they are essentially unchanged. We still anticipate that vaccination is going to be one of the best ways to slow transmission, whether it’s getting your first dose or booster.”Dr. Sarah Kemble, State Epidemiologist
Dr. Kemble also said the DOH is now “actively sequencing” specimens for the omicron variant on all Hawaiian Islands.