DOH confirms new omicron mutation in Hawaiʻi, likely on Oʻahu
January 28, 2022, 3:41 PM HST
* Updated January 29, 4:23 PM
As omicron continues to surge around the state, a new mutation called BA.2 has been recently detected on the U.S. Mainland and now in Hawaiʻi, officials said today.
Eight cases of the omicron mutation have shown up in Hawai’i, and they are believed to be on Oʻahu — although location confirmation will be a couple weeks out, according to state Department of Health Laboratories Division Administrator Dr. Edward Desmond. The results discussed today reflect samples from two weeks ago.
While the omicron subvariant BA.2 has not yet been deemed a variant of concern by World Health Organization, it may prolong the omicron surge the state is experiencing.
Variants of concern mean greater severity of illness and more resistance to vaccinations and other preventative measures.
However, much is still unknown about the mutation, which has become the dominant strain of omicron in Denmark and the UK. In Denmark, though, severity of illnesses and hospitalizations have not yet increased.
“Because it’s so new, there’s a lot of things we don’t know about it,” Desmond said during a news conference this afternoon. “We are not sure if it causes more serious disease; there seems to be no indication in Denmark that it causes more serious diseases.”
“As BA.2 took over in Denmark, there has not been an increase in hospitalizations,” he added. “So that has been somewhat of a relief.”
Health experts were hopeful, though, that the current surge of omicron BA.1 would soon taper. In other countries, the subvariant BA.2 has shown early indications of a prolonged surge.
“It is possible that the introduction of BA.2 may slow down or delay the end of this surge,” Desmond said. “And so we have to be concerned about hospitalizations and the wear and tear on our stalwart medical community.”
He emphasized precautions such as wearing a mask, getting vaccinated and avoiding crowds.