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Nearly 20,000 COVID-19 vaccines administered in Hawaii

About 20,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Hawaii, which received 61,450 doses as of Wednesday.

The state’s final vaccine shipments for the year will be distributed to front-line workers, nursing homes and private medical practices.

Hospitals received 11,700 shots from Pfizer on Tuesday, while 10,900 doses from Moderna slated for long-term care facilities arrived Monday.

Health officials are inoculating the most exposed health care workers and first responders, along with vulnerable long-term care residents and staff.

The vaccine is also being distributed to independent doctors and medical practice staff who are considered high-risk. The state plans a vaccination campaign for more than 100,000 seniors 75 and older next, though the largest number of people to get vaccinated won’t be until late spring or summer.

Nationally, health officials are worried that the rate of immunizations is moving slowly, even as a more contagious variant of the virus is now circulating in the U.S. More than 12 million COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed across the nation, though only 2.8 million Americans had voluntarily been inoculated as of Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, Gov. David Ige has approved a request by Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami to rejoin the state’s Safe Travels program, allowing interisland travelers who test negative for COVID-19 to bypass the island’s mandatory 10-day quarantine starting Tuesday.

The mayor’s amendment to Kauai’s emergency rules lifts the restriction for interisland travelers who test negative for the coronavirus less than 72 hours before flying to the Garden Isle. The new rule requires travelers to be physically in the state for more than three days before heading to Kauai, meaning that out-of-state travelers would not immediately be eligible to participate.

The order takes effect the same day a post-travel testing program authorizing a shorter quarantine for those who choose to stay in so-called “resort bubbles” begins on Kauai.

“Travelers who participate in this program will be able to enjoy resort amenities and visit the pool for the first three days of their vacations, until they are eligible to take their post-travel test,” Kawakami said in a news release. “Once the post-travel test shows they are COVID-free, they can enjoy all that Kauai has to offer.”

Kawakami acknowledged that the resort bubble program is “tailored to visitors and is not ideal for our residents.”

“Our residents continue to be our highest priority,” he said. “Now that our community has been able to enjoy the holiday season without a major surge in cases, we feel we are in a good position to loosen inter-island travel restrictions and offer more convenient opportunities to travel between islands.”

Hawaii health officials reported 108 new coronavirus infections Wednesday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 21,209 cases. The Department of Health reported no new deaths for the seventh straight day, leaving the statewide death toll at 285. However, Hawaii County officials said Sunday that one coronavirus-related death on the Big Island was reported over the past week.

The proposed order does not affect Kauai’s moratorium on the Safe Travels program for trans-Pacific travelers.

“The rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths on the mainland continues to increase, with the number of cases this month nearly double the rate in November,” said Kauai District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman. “Unfortunately, it is just not safe at this time to allow trans-Pacific travel to Kauai without additional safeguards.”

Kauai opted out of the Safe Travels program for all travelers on Dec. 2.

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