At least 38 people in the islands who completed their COVID-19 vaccine regimen have tested positive, state health officials said Friday.

One of those patients was hospitalized, according to Hawaii Department of Health Spokesman Brooks Baehr. The health status of the other patients is still being investigated, he said.

Those 38 were among 221,018 vaccinated people in Hawaii who had completed their final dose at least two weeks prior. That’s about 0.02% so-called “breakthrough” cases.

Fewer than 1% of those vaccinated in Hawaii have caught COVID-19 to date. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Vaccines can protect against serious illness or death but not prevent all infections.

The U.S. has recorded 5,800 breakthrough cases, 74 of which were fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those cases make up far less than 1% of fully vaccinated people, U.S. News and World Report reported.

The Department of Health continues to monitor COVID-19 outbreaks across the islands.

Latest COVID-19 Numbers

On Oahu, two clusters of 20 total infections occurred in educational settings, while another dozen cases were associated with two restaurants. At least 26 COVID-19 cases stemmed from two parties on Oahu.

In Hawaii County, 37 cases are associated with one “educational setting.” That appears to be the University of the Nations Kona, which announced on its website 31 COVID-19 cases as of April 6.

DOH disease investigators report that 21 COVID-19 clusters on Maui in the past two weeks have been associated within the tourism industry, a church and schools.

Officials do not specify locations or business names, but note in the Weekly Cluster Report that seven of the Maui clusters accounted for 93 total infections in the tourism industry and six resulted in 48 COVID-19 infections in school settings.

The outbreak that started at the King’s Cathedral in Kahului has grown to involve 90 people, 75 of whom had attended the church in person, and 15 of whom contracted the virus through a personal contact.

A screenshot from the Hawaii Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard illustrates how infection trends have been highest in Maui County since January. 

Increasing transmission on Maui could be related to the prevalence of a more contagious variant that has become the county’s dominant strain, according to state health officials.

About 82% of Maui COVID-19 specimens tested in March were the California variant, said Edward Desmond, the administrator of the DOH Hawaii State Laboratories Division, which conducts routine testing of specimens across the state.

“I think that’s probably the explanation why case rates are high there and there’ve been a lot more sick people on Maui in recent weeks,” he said in a video posted on Instagram by the health department.

Vaccine eligibility is poised to open to all Hawaii adults this Monday, but officials warned appointment availability will depend on the supply, especially as the state’s stock has been cut while distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is on hold.

The distribution of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine came to a halt Tuesday after federal health authorities announced they were investigating a rare form of blood clots among six women.

Meanwhile, plans to ease travel by creating a quarantine exemption for those who have been vaccinated is still under discussion while details such as how to handle lost vaccine cards or prepare airport screeners are hammered out, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Friday.

The plan to allow fully vaccinated people to skip the state’s mandatory quarantine is expected to launch for interisland travelers as early as May 11, he said. The program may not open to travelers from out of state until later next month or June.

Meanwhile, the University of Hawaii is considering making shots mandatory, except for those who cannot receive the vaccine for health reasons, Hawaii News Now reported. At least 50 American colleges and universities report they intend to require COVID-19 vaccines starting this fall.

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