The Hawaii Department of Health has identified the first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in the state.

State epidemiologist Sarah Kemble said the variant was a case of community transmission because the infected patient doesn’t have a history of out-of-state travel.

“There are a lot of unknowns here so I don’t want people to panic about this,” Kemble said during a press conference.

But she added that the variant is a cause for concern. Scientists have said the variant has the potential to be more transmissible than the delta variant and possibly more resistant to vaccines.

Hawaii Pacific Health Vaccine bus COVID-19 vaccination card.
Health officials say every adult should get a Covid booster to help protect against the new variant. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Kemble said the case is a reminder to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors. She also urged all adults who are eligible to get booster shots.

“Don’t rely on your vaccination status alone,” she said.

The patient is under 65 years old, unvaccinated and previously had caught Covid-19. Kemble said the patient has moderate symptoms and is isolating at home on Oahu.

The confirmation comes as Hawaii has begun easing Covid-19 restrictions as the caseload has largely leveled off after a surge sparked by the delta variant over the summer. Health officials reported 126 cases and one new death on Thursday.

The state is actively investigating the case to determine how the patient got infected with omicron given their lack of travel history.

The Diagnostic Laboratory Services first identified a molecular clue Monday that suggested the specimen might be omicron. It usually takes seven to 10 days to conduct whole genome sequencing, Kemble said.

However, the state laboratories division was able to confirm this specimen was the omicron variant within four days.

The New York Times reported that omicron has also been identified in Colorado, New York, Minnesota and California.

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