Local modeling

Local COVID modeling group projects new variant won’t cause spike in hospitalizations

The Hawaiʻi Pandemic Applied Modeling Group, or HiPAM, predicts that a new subvariant of COVID will not produce an increase in hospitalizations like other strains before it.

An omicron variant hybrid of COVID-19 called XE has been detected in Hawaiʻi, the state Department of Health announced last week. The hybrid contains genetic material of both BA.1 and BA.2 variants.

Dr. Thomas Lee, epidemiologist and co-chair of HiPAM, says there are several reasons to be optimistic that Hawaii won’t see another spike in hospitalizations.

“At least in Hawaiʻi, the vast majority of our population has either been vaccinated and/or boosted and also contracted COVID – or contracted COVID and recovered,” he said. “Although reinfection is possible, the rate of reinfection is not that high and those who are reinfected really don’t suffer in terms of large numbers of intensive care units and hospitalizations.”

While XE is considered more transmissible than mainstream BA.2 and the positivity rate is increasing slightly in the state, health officials are not calling for a return of COVID restrictions at this time.

“I think a couple of days ago this week there was actually a day — it was the first day ever that we had zero ICU cases due to COVID,” Lee said.

This interview aired on The Conversation on April 18, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.