COVID Delta surge is on the decline, but Hawaii experts warn of declining guard
HONOLULU (KHON2) – In order to keep the positivity rate low and the number of COVID cases stable, experts have warned the state must remain vigilant and watch out for the relaxation of restrictions.
Forecasters at the University of Hawaii’s Applied Pandemic Modeling (HiPAM) Working Group said there are several reasons the cases have declined: more tests are being done, vaccination rates are on the rise, there are 10,000 fewer travelers entering the state daily than in early August and more restrictions have been put in place.
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On August 23, Governor David Ige asked visitors not to come to Hawaii.
Then, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi reduced the size of gatherings on August 25 25 outside and 10 inside, and September 13, Safe Access Oahu has begun.
“While people are like ‘well, it’s not in the 1000’s now we can breathe’, it’s still a math and cob equation where 400 people a day for two to three weeks is still a lot of people with COVID, “said Dr Thomas Lee, assistant professor of epidemiology at UH and a member of the HiPAM modeling group.
Experts added that this kind of mentality could spark another wave of coronavirus.
“If they see small numbers, then they adapt the other way around and let their guard down,” said Dr Monique Chyba, HiPAM forecaster and professor in the mathematics department at UH.
Historically, when people let their guard down, it gave the virus a chance to spread, and the delta variant has proven how quickly it can spread.
“The big question now is how far do we go before we start to relax?” Said Dr Chyba.
The state went from 60.1% fully vaccinated on Aug. 1 to 67.2% on Sept. 25, leaving just over 100,000 people in Hawaii still unvaccinated.
“We still have to be a little careful with the reopening because the delta will find them if we don’t reopen carefully,” added Dr Chyba.
Forecasters said it was difficult to predict the impact the mitigation measures might have, as it requires speculating on people’s behavior.
If there is no change in vaccination rates and transmission, the model predicts that COVID cases could drop below 250 by Thursday, September 30. The best-case scenario is if vaccinations increase by 20% and transmission declines, the state could enter October with 185 cases. The worst-case scenario would be 322 cases by Thursday, which is even better than the current state of the state.
âI think it’s safe to say we’re in line for Delta,â Dr Lee said. “But again, another variation may appear, but I hope the worst is behind us.”
He said the majority of the population enjoys some sort of protection, either through natural immunity or through vaccination.
Doctors said that natural immunity wanes after a few months, and people who had COVID will have much higher protection if they are vaccinated. Experts also said the mask wearing and travel safety program should remain in place and testing should remain readily available.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green agreed and said the state still has a long way to go to reduce the numbers and there is no need to rush.
“We have to reduce these numbers so that an increase cannot hurt us,” he said. “I think we should be a little conservative in opening up and gradually, just gradually, reduce the restrictions.”
âI just think if people hold on a little longer we’re good, but they did a great job. The past three weeks have been very successful in Hawaii in both stopping the surge in the delta and starting to dig a very deep hole in hospitals, âhe added.
Dr Lee said the state will always have to remain vigilant moving forward due to tourism. He said the state already sees flu season year round.
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âWe have people who come from all parts of the world, so we are continuously exposed to the flu all year round. Same with COVID, until the world gets more vaccine fairness and is protected from COVID, Hawaii itself can’t really breathe a sigh of relief at being COVID-free because we’re going to be COVID-free. continue to have visitors, people returning from places around the world who are not yet at the level of protection against COVID, âhe said.