Hawaii to shut down quarantine facilities, despite COVID case spike

Despite a recent surge in cases partly from the Omicron variant, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) announced today that it would end operations of all state-operated quarantine facilities on Dec. 31, 2021. 

 

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The quarantine facility closures follow a Nov. 29 emergency proclamation from Gov. David Ige that directs counties to oversee emergency management operations instead. DOH confirmed the state’s first Omicron case on Dec. 2 and has seen a 106% increase in total cases as of Dec. 14—approximately 210 new cases per day. 

In light of the closures, DOH directs those who test positive or become exposed to COVID-19 to follow the department’s Home Isolation and Quarantine Guidance. The guidance includes quarantining at home in a separate room from other household members, not sharing meals, and masking up while at home for at least 10 days.

Despite the rise in cases, Hawaii was named the third-safest state during COVID-19, a WalletHub study found. The study, released Thursday, reveals low positive testing rates and hospitalizations in early December may have contributed to Hawaii’s high ranking.

According to the report, Hawaii has the lowest positive test and hospitalization rates in the country. Hawaii also ties four other states and Washington, D.C. with the highest vaccination rate. However, the report also lists Hawaii as one of the states with the highest transmission rates in the county, and as of Dec. 15, a Hong Kong study found the Omicron variant to multiply 70 times faster than Delta in human bronchus (airways). 

Prior to the surge of cases this week, Lt. Gov. Josh Green remained optimistic that the state would fare well. 

“We’re cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to control it, as before, with a very comprehensive vaccination program, mask wearing, and careful gathering rules indoors.”

On Wednesday, DOH reported two new COVID-19-related deaths on Oahu, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. It is not clear whether the deaths were from the Omicron variant.