Lt. Gov. Josh Green said he is optimistic that Hawaii residents could begin COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as next month with about 44,000 people immunized to start.
“We are prepared to accept vaccinations from the federal government as soon as they are approved,” Green said this morning on Spotlight Hawaii.
Green, who is also an emergency room physician, has been tasked with heading up the state’s vaccination roll out. The plan is to divide the community into three groups, with health care workers, first responders and kupuna in the first batch.
“Then we go on to the second stage, where we get hundreds of thousands of doses where we go into all the individuals in the state, hopefully, that have chronic conditions, or who are also more vulnerable,” he said.
The third and final group are those younger and healthy who may be less likely to see risks for severe impacts from the virus.
“We hope to be vaccinating people in December,” he said, adding the next round of immunizations would be available to Hawaii by May.
If things go smoothly and a critical mass of Hawaii residents are immunized, Green said that while mask-wearing and social distancing will likely still be needed, a lot of the current restrictive policies could likely be lifted.
“Everything starts getting easier as you develop immunity, that’s the hope,” he said.
For now, strict rules remain, especially around trans-Pacific travel.
Gov. David Ige on Thursday announced that trans-Pacific travelers to Hawaii who cannot present a valid negative coronavirus test result upon arrival will need to quarantine for 14 days.
Since reopening Hawaii to travel in October, 44 travelers have received a positive result upon arrival, which pushed the state to tighten the rules. But with COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in parts of the mainland, timing their test results and meeting that new standard could be difficult for some travelers.
“Believe me, I know that it’s onerous, I know that it’s tough,” Green said. “But what we’re trying to achieve is getting through these next two months until we get to the vaccination with very low COVID rates, and that’s the trade-off.”
Green also addressed Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s criticism of the state’s surveillance testing program.
“I think it’s political but I don’t want to say anything negative, because I know he’s working hard in other ways,” Green said. “Maybe the stress has gotten to people. But these kinds of fights are silly because really we should be talking about mask-wearing. The mask-wearing rates are where you will stop the spread.”
Green said that if 95% of Hawaii residents wore face masks, most of the community spread of the coronavirus would cease to exist.
Green said Caldwell got many of the facts wrong about the surveillance testing on Oahu. “He just likes to make personal attacks, that’s all. It’s just a fact,” Green said.
Green continued, “He’s in the end game of his term. I’ve already begun to brief the mayor-elect about the programs. He needs to focus on these next two months and what’s safe, but we have the safest, best numbers in the country and there’s nothing to prevent him and there never was from doing extra testing if he’d like.”
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.