COVID-19 UPDATE 42   

Hawai‘i is again at a crossroads in our fight against COVID-19. Over the last week, our state averaged 671 daily cases, with 409 people currently hospitalized. If we do not change our course, models forecast that cases could peak at 3,700 cases per day in October. Our healthcare system will not be able to handle that caseload – we are already reaching capacity – and may need to make impossible choices about who does and does not receive care.

We’ve made significant progress since March 2020 – vaccines are now widely available in the US (with the Pfizer vaccine now FDA-approved!) and are effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19. However, we’re also facing new challenges, like the highly contagious Delta variant and pandemic fatigue from over a year of restrictions. The increase in vaccinations and the rise in infections of the Delta variant, bring up an urgent need; we need a new tier system or updated guidance for elected officials to use that consider public health recommendations.

At this point in the pandemic, we know how to minimize the spread of COVID-19 – masking, social distancing, and washing our hands work. However, we are seeing both the state and county governments starting to reinstate restrictions and mandates because voluntary action is not enough. Additional measures, such as vaccine passports, may further help to curb community spread. We do not want to see another shutdown, but without immediate, drastic, and collective action, it will be necessary. Restrictions announced today by Mayor Rick Blangiardi are a start, but likely do not go far enough to relieve our hospitals. We are committed to listening to our communities and reducing the impact of COVID-19, while doing what is necessary to protect the health of Hawai‘i.

In Hawai‘i, every age group is at risk for contracting COVID-19 and more than 90 percent of the COVID-19 cases in the hospitals are unvaccinated individuals; vaccination is proven to offer protection from serious illness, hospitalization and death. Please encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated for their health and their community as vaccination reduces transmission as well as reduces severe illness directly impacting the burden on our hospitals. A recent research article described the correlation between US state-level vaccination rates and COVID-19 deaths during the first five months of vaccine availability; an estimated reduction of 139,393 COVID-19 deaths resulted from the US vaccination campaign.

 

MISSED OUR LAST WEBINAR?

This past Wednesday, Dr. Janet Berreman, Dr. Melinda Ashton, and Paige Heckathorn Choy shared their expertise on the Delta variant and its impacts in Hawaiʻi. In the words of Dr. Ashton, it’s clear that this variant has changed the game from a marathon to a triathlon, and we must continue adapting our knowledge and skills for the next leg. Watch the webinar directly on the Hawaiʻi Public Health Training Hui YouTube page. Our next webinar on Wednesday, September 8 will cover How to Communicate about Vaccination. Sign up today!

 

FEDERAL UPDATES

FDA Gives Full Approval for Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 16 years of age and older and will now be marketed as Comirnaty. This is an important milestone that should reassure anyone who has concerns about getting vaccinated. What does full approval mean? The FDA requires extensive data on safety and effectiveness, inspection of manufacturing facilities, and a comprehensive review of all clinical and “real-world” use of a drug before it can give it full approval.

The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for children ages 12 – 15 and for certain immunocompromised individuals receiving a third dose.

 

CDC Recommends An Additional Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine for Immunocompromised & Intended Plan for the General Public 

The CDC recommends that immunocompromised individuals now receive a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Who qualifies as immunocompromised?

  • People undergoing cancer treatment
  • Organ transplant recipients
  • People taking immunosuppressant medications

If you’re not sure if you’re immunocompromised, please check with your healthcare provider! For everyone else, the CDC announced their plan, pending FDA approval, of boosters for people who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least 8 months prior will qualify for a booster shot starting the week of September 20. As of right now, a decision has not been made for boosters for individuals that received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine; clinical trials are ongoing with results expected to be released later this summer.

 

New Data for mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines for Pregnant Women

August is national breastfeeding month and the CDC recommends women who are breastfeeding get an mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) COVID-19 vaccination. Pregnant individuals are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people; getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection from severe illness. New data found no increase in the risk for miscarriage among people who received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Early data suggest receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy reduces the risk for infection and helps mothers build antibodies that may protect their baby.

STATEWIDE UPDATES

Governor Ige Asks Visitors to Postpone Travel

Governor Ige is asking visitors to postpone travel to Hawai‘i, except for essential businesses as the state struggles to respond to a surge in COVID-19 cases. He also warned that further restrictions, such as a lockdown, may be implemented if cases continue to rise and hospitals are overwhelmed.

 

500 Healthcare Workers Are Expected to Help Hospitals Statewide

Our hospitals are in need of support during this surge in cases, with staff at capacity.  More than 500 experienced healthcare professionals from out of state will be deployed statewide with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The out-of-state healthcare staff will support 19 hospitals and are required to show verification that they are fully vaccinated or be tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis.

 

Additional COVID-19 Test Sites 

Free COVID-19 testing is now available to Hawai‘i residents at CVS/Long Drugs, Health Mart and Walgreens. Walk-ins are welcomed, or individuals can make an appointment online. Additional testing sites on Hawai‘i island, Maui, Kaua‘i, Molokai and Lāna‘i can be found here and those looking to pre-register can visit preventcovidhi.com.

 

COUNTY  UPDATES

Hawai‘i County

Mayor Mitch Roth requested Governor Ige to bring back pre-travel testing for all trans-Pacific travelers who enter the State of Hawai‘i, and particularly to Hawai‘i county. The island’s ICU’s are full and it is critical to take action now to slow the spread. The Ironman World Championship scheduled for October 9 in Kailua-Kona has been postponed until 2022.

 

Kaua‘i County

The county is doing a new series called “Ask Dr. B” where you can ask about all things COVID-19 by sending a direct message to the county’s Facebook page or commenting your questions under the last COVID-19 update. District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman will answer your questions in an upcoming video update.

 

City and County of Honolulu

Today, Mayor Blangiardi announced starting Wednesday, August 25 there will be a suspension of large gatheringssuch as weddings, funerals, sporting events and other attractions, such as the Van Gogh Exhibit, for the next 28 days. People can still gather in groups with no more than 10 indoors and 25 outdoors. The new restrictions and gathering sizes will be enforced by the Honolulu Police Department.

Vaccination and Testing Opportunities:

STATEWIDE RESOURCES 

Back to Class Virtual Town Hall 

The National Parent Teacher Association is hosting a Back to Class Virtual Town Hall to be held LIVE on Facebook Wednesday, September 1 at 7 a.m. HST. The town hall will include NBC, CDC, US Department of Education, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, Learning Heroes and more as important information and resources will be available to keep families safe as the new school year gets underway.

 

COVID-19 Communication Resources for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants 

National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants (NRC-RIM) has a vaccine resource center with a plethora of resources to support vaccine planning, roll-out, knowledge, and confidence among RIM communities.

 

Hawai‘i DOH Guidance for COVID-19 Cases and Contact 

The Hawai‘i Department of Health updated their guidance for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals who contract COVID-19 and how they and their close contacts should respond. Download the flyer or find it translated in 16 other languages here.

 

What COVID-19 Misinformation is Spreading and How Should You Respond?

The Public Health Collaborative provides misinformation alerts with recent false claims that have been circulating around COVID-19. At the bottom of each claim, there is a recommendation on how to respond to the misinformation along with reliable sources where facts can be checked.

Professional Workshop for Community Interpreters 

Interested in learning about various pathways to becoming a professional interpreter in schools and healthcare, legal and social service settings? This free workshop is for community members interested in becoming a skilled interpreter; register online. For more information or for additional questions, please email safehavencenter.waipahu@gmail.com.

 

 

PUBLIC HEALTH TIP OF THE WEEK

This week our public health tip relates to safe travels. We recommend delaying non-essential travel even if you are fully vaccinated. For essential travel, we recommend getting tested after trans-Pacific travel. CDC guidelines suggest the following:

DOMESTIC TRAVEL

  • Vaccinated: Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
  • Unvaccinated: If you must travel, get tested 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

  • Vaccinated: Get tested 3-5 days after travel. If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
  • Unvaccinated: If you must travel, get tested 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel.

Visit hawaiicovid19.com/testing to find a free test site near you and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitterto receive health tips throughout the week!

DO YOU HAVE RESOURCES OR INFORMATION ON COVID-19 TO SHARE?

If you have any resources or updates we should include in our next email or on our website, feel free to contact us at covidresponse@hiphi.org.