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5 Things Hawaii residents need to know about COVID-19 variants


1)Are the variants here in Hawai‘i? Multiple variants that cause COVID-19 are circulating globally, and two variants have been detected in Hawai‘i. Specimens from four people in Hawai‘i contained a molecular “clue” associated with the U.K. variant. While scientists are working to learn more about how widely these new variants have spread, Hawai‘i residents and visitors should act as if the variants are already circulating in our state.

2. Should I be concerned about this new U.K. variant? “It’s cause for concern but not panic,” says Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist. The U.K. variant spreads more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. State labs are collecting samples from patients across all islands to proactively get a head start.

3. Will the COVID-19 vaccines protect me from the variants? So far, studies suggest that antibodies your body has or will develop through vaccination recognize these variants. This is good news about the effectiveness of the vaccine. Close investigation and more studies are underway.

4. What is the state doing to stop the spread? Vaccinations statewide are underway. As of Thursday, 189,446 doses have been administered. Because some variants are highly contagious, they will affect how many people in Hawai‘i will need to get the vaccine to stop or slow it in its tracks. When it’s your turn to get a shot, don’t hesitate. This has become a race between the virus and the vaccine.

5. Should I wear two masks? It’s recommended that masks have two or more layers, which can be achieved by doubling masks. If you do choose to double mask, make sure the masks cover your mouth and nose and that you can breathe comfortably through them.

As our state awaits receiving more vaccine supply for our kūpuna and essential workers, it is more important than ever to rigorously follow safe practices, including wearing a face mask, physical distancing, hand hygiene, gathering safely, and isolation and quarantine. Small actions will make a big difference in limiting the spread of the virus and protecting our communities.

Learn More About Variant Detection in Hawai‘i

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