Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Health Officials Urge Public to Get COVID Booster Shot Amid Surge

By Tiffany DeMasters
December 23, 2021, 1:19 PM HST
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With COVID-19 cases spiking, health officials are urging the public, vaccinated against the virus, to get a booster shot.

This morning, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health reported 1,511 new coronavirus cases statewide. This spike comes as the new COVID variant Omicron has begun rapidly spreading on Oʻahu. DOH Director Dr. Libby Char confirmed in a press conference Thursday the department was investigating four cases on the Big Island as possible Omicron cases.

“This surge started with Delta and there’s a lot of Omicron laid on top of that,” Char said of the increase in case counts.

During the press conference, Char pushed the message for vaccinated individuals to not wait in getting a booster shot.

“I think people have a sense that the two shots are enough,” Char said. “Maybe it was the messaging early on, but we need to get the message out that people need that third shot.”

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The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are a two-shot series. Johnson and Johnson is a single shot. For Char, she sees COVID vaccination as a three-shot series.

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“The booster shot really and truly works,” she said.

Char said there is concern that hospitals will once again be pushed to maximum capacities as more people infected with the virus require hospitalization.

“People seem to have this false narrative that just because it’s not as virulent, nothing is going to happen,” Char said about the Omicron variant. “We need to take it seriously. We just don’t know the long-term effects.”

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Within a couple of weeks, Char said all reported cases in the state will probably be Omicron.

With the emergence of Omicron, and the holidays hours away, Char continued to encourage the public to avoid large gatherings, stay home when sick, wear a mask indoors and get tested if feeling sick.

Hilo Medical Center Spokesperson Elena Cabatu said the hospitals on Hawai‘i Island haven’t been as severely affected as those on Oʻahu with this new COVID spike.

“We went a stretch of 19 days with no COVID hospitalizations,” Cabatu said. “We are seeing the positive cases increase, gradually.”

Cabatu said it is a matter of when Big Island hospitals will be hit with high inpatient counts. However, HMC is working with the Health Care Association to manage staffing levels.

“We did it in the last surge and we have the game plan,” Cabatu said. “There are preparations in the works in the event that we experience the need for more staffing.”

Additionally, Cabatu said HMC staff have begun getting booster shots. Starting Monday, Dec. 27, the hospital is reopening a vaccine clinic to meet the demand for booster shots.

Monoclonal antibody treatment is still available in the HMC emergency department.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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