The state of Hawaii confirmed Friday that a more contagious variant of COVID-19 that originated in the United Kingdom has infected one person on Oahu.

Three other people also had positive tests that included a molecular signal consistent with the so-called B.1.1.7 variant. The state is still analyzing specimens to verify the variant.

The patient with the confirmed case did not have a recent history of travel.

“That indicates that it came from somewhere in the community,” Dr. Sarah Kemble, the acting state epidemiologist, said at a press conference Friday. “There is some community transmission.”

Dr. Sarah Kemble, acting state epidemiologist, said the patient with a confirmed case of a more contagious COVID-19 variant had no recent travel history. Eleni Avendaño/Civil Beat/2021

The patient first had symptoms in late January, and one of that person’s close contacts has also been infected.

The state is tracing contacts of the patient and says it is closely monitoring the cases.

“Maybe we can keep this under control until we are all vaccinated,” said Dr. Edward Desmond, director of the State Laboratories Division of the Department of Health.

The arrival of the variant underscores the need to vaccinate residents quickly, officials said.

“One of our weapons is vaccinations,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green said, adding that the state is averaging 50,000 doses a week.

Officials also pled with residents not to attend Super Bowl parties on Sunday and, if they do, to take precautions such as mask-wearing and keeping social distance.

“Please, don’t spread COVID-19 this weekend,” Green said.

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author