The Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been detected in Hawai‘i, according to the state Department of Health Laboratories Division.
“This isn’t reason for panic, but it is reason for concern,” said Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char. “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.”
On Monday, Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc. identified a specimen with a molecular clue indicating it might be Omicron. The State Laboratories Division performed expedited whole genome sequencing and determined Thursday, Dec. 2, that the specimen is the Omicron variant.
The COVID-19 positive individual is an O‘ahu resident with moderate symptoms who was previously infected with COVID-19 but was never vaccinated.
This is a case of community spread. The individual has no history of travel.
“Throughout the pandemic, DOH’s state lab has been a leader in conducting COVID-19 genomic sequencing, which is how the Omicron variant was identified,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble. “Our surveillance system is working. This announcement serves as a reminder to be extremely careful to protect ourselves and our loved ones, especially during the holiday season.”
The Omicron variant has been detected in at least 23 countries and at least two other states.
“Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc. has worked closely with the Department of Health since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Dr. Chris Whelen, vice president and technical director for microbiology and molecular diagnostics. “When we detected the spike gene drop-out, which is a molecular clue that the virus might be the Omicron variant, we immediately reported it to DOH State Laboratories and sent them the sample for sequencing.”
Anyone contacted by a case investigator from DOH is asked to cooperate in an effort to slow the transmission of COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms is asked to get tested and avoid other people.
Unvaccinated people who come in close contact with COVID-19 positive individuals are advised to get tested.
Information about free testing and vaccines is available online by clicking here.