The supply of Johnson & Johnson vaccines to Hawaii is expected to decrease over the next two weeks, state health officials said Friday.

About 21,300 doses are expected by the end of this week, but only 2,600 of the one-dose shot are scheduled to arrive next week, DOH Spokesman Brooks Baehr told Civil Beat.

Still, the state was on track to get a record 90,080 vaccine doses this week from all manufacturers.

“That is the largest amount of vaccine we have received any week thus far,” he said. Next week a total of 76,060 doses are expected due to the drop in Johnson & Johnson shipments.

The decrease is tied to a mishap at a Baltimore manufacturing plant that affected the nation. The facility needs new approval from the Food and Drug Administration to resume operation.

“The federal government is going to do more rigorous scrutiny of the processes which could slow their ability to come online,” Healthcare Association of Hawaii president and CEO Hilton Raethel told Civil Beat.

Pharmacist Davis Zheng fills syringe with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. January 5, 2021
The majority of vaccines administered in Hawaii to date have been manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, which require two doses. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one dose but a manufacturing error has cut down on supply across the nation. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Still, the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility pool continues to open incrementally on Oahu, with people 50 years old and older invited to make appointments starting Monday. All other Hawaii counties have opened eligibility to people 16 years and older.

Despite the setback, health officials said many vaccine appointments are still open at local pharmacies including Longs, Walgreens and Safeway, which have been contracted by the federal government and have received an increased supply in recent weeks. A list of vaccine distribution clinics is available online.

“We encourage anyone eligible for a COVID vaccination to explore the possibility of getting their shots through a pharmacy near them,” Baehr said.

The Department of Health updated its vaccine data report this week to include shots delivered by the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration or through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Health officials previously said they were not privy to statistics about the federal program’s rollout.

A total of 906,777 shots have been delivered since December and almost a third of the state’s population has received at least one dose.

Maui To Require Secondary Test At Airport

Maui County is launching a secondary COVID-19 testing regimen at its airport as state health officials monitor several outbreaks there.

The average daily number of infections in Maui County decreased this week from the most recent peak of 30 cases per day last month to 26 as of Friday.

The testing positivity rate in the past week is highest in Maui County at 3.1%.

The COVID-19 rapid tests can produce results within minutes, and Maui County plans to require them for all arriving travelers. Elijah Cacal, a Premier Medical Group team leader, analyzes rapid tests at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport. Courtesy: Premier Medical Group/2021

A Maui church, King’s Cathedral, has been associated with 77 infections, up from 50 reported March 31.

Another four clusters were tied to unspecified occupational settings and resulted in 60 infections, while another 39 were tied to four separate and unspecified travel and tourism settings, according to DOH’s report.  The Maui Community Correctional Center is still being monitored after 94 people associated with the facility fell ill, although the majority have recovered, according to the Hawaii Department of Public Safety.

Latest COVID-19 Numbers

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino on Wednesday announced travelers who arrive at Kahului airport from out of state must take a rapid COVID-19 test in addition to the pre-travel tests already required by the state.

Those who do not take the test upon arrival will be subject to a 10-day quarantine. Inter-island travelers will not be required to take the secondary test upon arrival, he said.

The new program was “designed to determine if visitors and returning residents are contributing to the large rate of COVID-19 on Maui,” Victorino said at a news conference.

The county is in the process of contracting with a company to conduct the tests, so the program will likely take at least 10 days to get started, he said.

New COVID-19 Cluster Activity Identified On Hawaii Island

Meanwhile, on Hawaii island, state health officials report they are monitoring an educational institution where 32 people tested positive for the virus.

The cluster appears to be at the University of the Nations, a private faith-based college in Kona that reported 31 cases on its website. The campus is now closed to the public and the college is conducting classes online.

Two other clusters on Hawaii island involved a dozen people who attended the same gathering, and another group of six people who attended the same place of worship.

These were the first major clusters reported on the island in several weeks.

Hawaii County’s daily case rate remains among the lowest in the state, with an average of 10 this week and 1.6% of tests coming back positive. The lowest was Kauai County, with an average of just one case daily this week.

Oahu Continues To Open Amid Virus Counts

Honolulu had an average of 58 new COVID-19 infections daily this week, and 2.1% of tests were positive.

Despite Oahu numbers that would have triggered a return to a more restrictive Tier 2, Mayor Rick Blangiardi said Wednesday that the island will stay in Tier 3 of the city’s reopening plan for the next four weeks after getting approval from Gov. David Ige.

Parties of 10 people are permitted, along with funerals of up to 10 guests and outdoor weddings of up to 100 guests and staff.

Mayor RIck Blangiardi gestures during press conference announcing repairs of roads in Kakaako.
Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s plan to keep COVID-19 rules the way they are was approved this week by Gov. David Ige. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

If Oahu had gone back to Tier 2, only five-person gatherings would be allowed.

Other activities like youth outdoor sports will resume on April 12 and certain adult outdoor league sports are allowed to start again on April 19.

DOH Warns Of School Sports Risks

While plans are being made to resume sports, Department of Health disease investigators warned in a weekly report about virus transmission risks.

Investigators cited various COVID-19 clusters that involved school sports, the largest of which affected the University of Hawaii’s football team, placing 81 team members in quarantine.

The first two cases were detected via random surveillance testing. Health officials believe the infected players were exposed to the virus over spring break.

A total of eight players have tested positive, the Star-Advertiser reported.

Another high school volleyball team player contracted COVID-19 during a family gathering over spring break, officials said, although no other teammates have tested positive so far.

In the cluster report, health officials urged surveillance testing of everyone on school sports teams, even if asymptomatic, to catch cases early, and warned that initial tests do not always detect the virus.

“Some sports involve unavoidable prolonged or cumulative close contact among team members. Even when physical distancing is maintained during practice, team members tend to share social networks and might associate closely outside of practice,” DOH officials wrote.

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