Hawaii is on track to resume graduations, weddings and other major milestones by the summer with schools being able to reopen in mid-March.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green is projecting the state will be able to return to some type of normalcy with 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccines expected to be available by June 1.
Green wants his optimism to bring some hope to weary residents struggling to make ends meet and continue living under tight restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The lieutenant governor is “pushing hard” to begin inoculating kupuna 65 and older in March, contingent upon the federal government approving Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine, which could vastly increase the supply chain. He is estimating the state will get 350,000 shots in arms by March 1, 600,000 by April 1, 850,000 by May 1 and 1.1 million by June 1.
“That means a really large percentage of our population will be immune by the summertime,” he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii.
“That means big gatherings will be doable,” he said, while also advocating to allow travelers to bypass coronavirus testing if they are fully immunized to COVID-19. “You can expect weddings, gatherings and the like this summer. It’s time to restore some of these important things like high school sports, graduations — the landmark moments in life.”
While the state has the capacity for more than 80,000 shots a week, it is currently distributing about 50,000 doses “because that’s all we’re getting.” Hawaii is immunizing health care workers and long-term care residents, as well as adults 75 years and older and front-line essential workers, including first responders, corrections officers, critical transportation and utility workers, postal service employees, teachers and child care providers.
“When our educators are vaccinated we should open our schools — that simple,” he added. There’s no real reason that come March 15 we can’t encourage schools to get back to in-person instruction, he said.
The state has so far administered 260,000 shots and is expecting 42,800 doses this week, which is reflected in declining case counts, Green said. Another 49,600 is expected next week and 50,700 doses the following week, in addition to 4,400 doses delivered directly to pharmacies and additional doses to the military.
Health officials reported 35 new coronavirus infections, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 26,889 cases. No new COVID-19 fatalities were reported, with the statewide death toll remaining at 426. There are currently 42 people in the hospital battling the virus, the lowest since Aug. 1.
However, officials are worried about variants that have already infiltrated the islands, one originally found in Denmark and the other, more contagious strain from the United Kingdom.
“That means there’s more lurking around in society. We don’t know overall if any of the variants is overtaking the main strain, but what we can say is that our positivity rate has plummeted,” he said. “If we were seeing a lot of the really nasty variants that spread fast, we instead would have seen a big uptick. That suggests to me that we have for now evaded most of the real infectious variants. As we begin the end of the COVID crisis … that would be a wild card that could set us back if we got a big surge of one of the scarier variants.”