The Perfect Enemy | COVID-19 infections remain high in Hawaii
July 1, 2022

COVID-19 infections remain high in Hawaii

COVID-19 infections remain high in Hawaii  Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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Gov. David Ige said Monday that while he’s aware that levels of COVID-19 infection in the state remain high, no new pandemic-related regulations are planned for Hawaii.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention once again lists three counties — Kauai, Honolulu and Maui —as high-level communities for COVID-19 impacts.

“I think we all know what works, and we all need to be smart about what we do,” said Ige during a conversation on the Honolulu Star- Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” livestream program. “Wear a mask if you’re going into crowds or gatherings of large size. I recommend to people that they wear a mask indoors, you know — it does help prevent you from getting COVID.”

He added that there has been a slight increase in hospitalizations in Hawaii but that “it’s nowhere near what we saw in the delta surge.” Hospitals are dealing with staffing shortages due to health care workers being out sick with COVID-19, he said, but it is not prohibiting people from getting health services that they need right now.

“So we continue to monitor that,” he said. “It’s a concern, but it hasn’t prompted us to take any action at this point in time.”

Additionally, Ige said people should stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and get boosted if eligible. People who have symptoms, even if mild, should stay home and test for COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the community.

When asked about long lines of travelers bunched together, mostly maskless, at airport security checkpoints, he said the state would work with the Transportation Security Administration to improve the flow.

But he is not concerned about tourists bringing COVID-19 to the islands, saying the state has not seen a “whole lot of COVID cases associated with travel or, at least, trans-Pacific travel.”

Effective Sunday, the CDC and the Biden administration lifted a requirement that international travelers test negative for COVID-19 prior to boarding a flight to the U.S.

As weeks pass by following the end of Hawaii’s indoor mask mandate on March 25, fewer people appear to be masking at the airport, grocery stores or other public indoor venues, even in counties where the CDC recommends it.

Kauai on Thursday was bumped back up to a high-level community based on metrics that measure COVID-19 hospital admission rates, percentage of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days.

Under CDC guidelines, those living in high-level communities should wear a well-fitting mask in public indoors and on public transportation, regardless of vaccination status.

Kauai was the first county in Hawaii to be moved up to the orange, high-level category in mid-May, followed by Honolulu and Maui counties. Kauai was then moved down to a yellow, medium-risk community in late May, while Honolulu and Maui remained high. Hawaii County remains at medium level.

The CDC on Thursday listed the case rate per 100,000 on Kauai County at 601.7, new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 at 15.2 and staffed inpatient beds used by patients with COVID-19 at 6.9%.

The greatest increase in metrics for Kauai were in new hospital admissions per 100,000, which increased to 15.2 from 8.3, bringing it back up to high.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky shared on Twitter that as of Thursday over 67% of the U.S. population is in an area with a medium or high COVID-19 community level, up from 55% the previous week.

Every state has at least one county in a medium or high level, she said. At high levels, people should mask in public indoor settings, and at medium levels, people should consider masking based on personal risk.

Even so, few places across the U.S. have re-implemented mask mandates, with many government leaders recommending it rather than mandating it.

Along these same lines, Gov. Ige said he recommends, but has no plans to mandate, that people wear masks indoors, whether they are residents or travelers to Hawaii. He shared that he himself wears a double mask at the airport, and requests that those he holds face-to-face meetings with continue to wear a mask.

Additionally, Ige warned that without congressional approval of additional funding for the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments may no longer be available for free.

“We continue to have a good supply of treatments as well as vaccines, but we do anticipate, and the White House has informed us, once we run out of the funds already appropriated, then we’re back to business as usual,” he said. “You would have to seek reimbursement from health insurers. The treatments and vaccines won’t be as readily available as they are today.”