Hawaii has received nearly 83,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, administered more than 26,000, and is gearing up to vaccinate residents age 75 and up, along with essential frontline workers.
Gov. David Ige, Lt. Gov. Josh Green and Dr. Elizabeth Char, director of the Hawaii Department of Health, provided the update on vaccinations this afternoon at the State Capitol.
“As we head into 2021 there’s hope that our economy will recover if we can continue to contain COVID-19 preserving the health of both residents and visitors alike,” said Ige, adding that cases were on the rise in Hawaii. “The COVID-19 vaccine distribution marks the beginning of our path to recovery. It will help us return to in-person learning, our jobs, and get people back to work and the restoration of community activities.”
The first phase of vaccinations, Phase 1A, which began in mid-December and is underway this month, focuses on health care workers and long-term care facility residents.
CVS, Walgreens and other private pharmacies are administering the vaccines to long-term care residents in the state, including at 15 Craigside, a retirement community in Nuuanu which held its first vaccination clinic this afternoon.
On Monday, Dr. Char said Hawaii received an additional 17,000 doses of the vaccine — much of it including the second of the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna administered a few weeks ago.
Health care workers that received the first dose are now able to get the second dose of the two-shot vaccine, which are to be administered three to four weeks following the first one.
For the second phase, Phase 1B, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said the focus would be on about 109,000 kupuna ages 75 and older in the state, along with about 50,000 frontline essential workers.
The list of frontline essential workers includes first responders, corrections officers and staff, emergency service workers, and individuals essential for federal, state and local government operations. It also includes critical and public transportation workers, utilities workers, teachers, child care workers and education support staff, along with U.S. Postal Service workers.
Green said as of last Thursday, at least 26,000 individuals in Hawaii have been vaccinated, and that thousands more were vaccinated over the weekend, Monday and today. He hopes to vaccinate 35,000 to 40,000 individuals by the end of this week.
There has been also surge in new coronavirus cases since the holidays began, according to Green.
On Dec. 1 following Thanksgiving, Hawaii’s 7-day average for new daily cases stood at 80, and the positivity rate at 1.7%, with 56 patients hospitalized. Today, the 7-day average for new daily cases stood at about 140, with a positivity rate of 3.5%, and about 100 hospitalized.
Today’s daily new case count for the state includes 124 coronavirus infections, bringing the statewide total to 22,168. The total — which reflects new cases reported to the Health Department Sunday — includes 74 on Oahu, 21 on Maui, 12 on Hawaii island, one on Kauai, and 16 residents diagnosed out of state.
Green said despite the surge, Hawaii continues to have the lowest case and death rates from COVID-19 in the nation.
Dr. Char said the department continues to monitor for variant strains of COVID-19 that have hit Colorado, California and upstate New York.
“We haven’t seen any of these new strains yet in our test samples,” said Dr. Char. “But one of the new highly transmissible or contagious strains has been identified in a few states across the U.S., so we expect at some point we may see it here. That’s why it’s so critical that we continue to wear our masks, keep our distance and avoid gathering in crowded spaces.”
In Phase 1C, which is expected to occur between March and May, the focus of vaccinations will be for those ages 65 to 74, as well as those with chronic diseases and essential workers not previously included in Phase 1B. Exceptions, however, will be made for unexpected outbreaks.
Vaccinations should become available for the general population, Green said, starting in early summer, depending on the federal allocation. By then, he expects more options will become available.
“We’d like everyone to remain patient,” said Green. “We want to echo what the Governor said — please be safe. This (holding up a mask) is going to do just as much good as the vaccination for the foreseeable future. But we will vaccinate our most vulnerable people, mostly our kupuna and our essential workforce.”
Plans are also underway to establish larger, distribution sites in mid-January to provide greater COVID-19 vaccination access to the community, officials said. More information on how to schedule vaccinations for those age 75 and older should be available soon at HawaiiCovid19.com.
A new hotline has also been set up for those with COVID-19 vaccination questions from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays at 586-8332.
Watch the livestream video above.
Editor’s Note: This story is developing and will be updated as soon as more information becomes available.