Hawaii will soon extend COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to residents age 70 and older, ahead of schedule.
Currently, only kupuna age 75 and older and “frontline essential workers” may register to get inoculated against the coronavirus under Phase 1-B of the state’s vaccination program. State Department of Health officials earlier said they expect to open eligibility to Phase 1-C — individuals age 65 and older and essential workers not included in 1-B — in March.
“We’re still in Phase 1b, and we’re not ready to go into Phase 1c yet. But soon, we’d like to welcome those 70 and older to get vaccinated. We know we still have kupuna and frontline essential workers waiting to be vaccinated,” said state Health Director Dr. Libby Char in a statement. “We’ve been vaccinating kupuna since about mid-January, and so we’d like to add in 70 and older to keep the uptake of vaccine really brisk.”
Details will be announced when sites are ready to accept registration for the 70-plus group, the department said.
Boosting optimism over the pace of the state’s vaccination program was news Friday that Hawaii-bound shipments of Moderna vaccine that were delayed this week by gnarly winter weather on the mainland should resume early next week. The state did receive 19,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week as scheduled.
The Health Department said it expects to receive the full order of 27,700 backlogged doses of Moderna vaccine plus more than 50,000 additional doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines as part of its scheduled weekly allotment.
An estimated 287,315 COVID-19 vaccinations already have been administered across the islands, according to preliminary DOH data released Friday. The Health Department’s weekly vaccination report showed that 55% of Hawaii’s 75-and-older population — almost 59,000 individuals — have already received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines.
In another indication that Hawaii’s vaccination program has made major leaps in recent weeks, the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID Data Tracker ranked Hawaii eighth among states in the rate of doses administered and in the rate of people receiving first and second vaccine doses.
And, with an average of three daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days, Hawaii far and away ranked No. 1 in that category among the 50 states, according to the CDC data.
The DOH on Friday reported two new coronavirus-related deaths and 50 new infections, bringing the state’s totals since the start of the pandemic to 430 fatalities and 27,048 cases. Officials said temporary interruptions in electronic laboratory reporting earlier in the week were resolved Tuesday, and “any lagged case reports are now fully caught up and reflected in the counts and summary statistics.”
The latest deaths involved an Oahu man in his 80s and a Maui man in his 60s, both of whom had underlying health conditions.
The new cases include 22 on Oahu, 22 on Maui, two on Hawaii island and four residents diagnosed outside of Hawaii. As a result of updated information, one case from Oahu was recategorized to Maui, and one case each from Oahu and Maui were removed from the counts. The statistics reflect new infections reported to the DOH on Wednesday.
Although uncertainty over vaccine supplies caused Hawaii Pacific Health to temporarily stop accepting first-dose appointments at its Oahu sites, its mass vaccination clinic at Pier 2 administered 1,528 vaccinations Thursday, all but three of them second doses. A total of 45,627 doses have been given at the Pier 2 site, with 17,284 appointments pending.
The Queen’s Health Systems’ mass vaccination clinics at the Blaisdell Concert Hall and The Queen’s Medical Center-Punchbowl, along with its operations at The Queen’s Medical Center-West Oahu, Molokai General Hospital and Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital, reported administering 57,448 vaccinations as of Thursday, with 19,880 appointments pending.
Winters storms on the mainland also moved the state to temporarily extend the Safe Travels time frame to four days from three for travelers to obtain valid negative COVID-19 test results prior to departing for Hawaii. The change is in effect until Sunday.
Under the Safe Travels program, travelers may take a pre-travel COVID-19 test from a state- approved partner prior to the final leg of their trip to Hawaii in order to bypass a mandatory 10-day quarantine. Under normal circumstances the test must be taken within 72 hours of departure, but the temporary extension allows testing within 96 hours of departure.
The negative test result must be uploaded onto the Safe Travels platform or printed out in a hard copy prior to departure and presented upon arrival in Hawaii.
The travel requirements have not discouraged thousands of visitors from arriving daily. The state reported 11,988 airline arrivals Thursday, including 7,337 vacationers and 1,078 returning residents.
Other DOH data released Friday shows that of the state’s total infection count, 722 cases were considered to be active, 47 fewer than the previous day’s tally. By island, Oahu had 520 active cases, Maui had 158, Hawaii island had 39, Lanai had one and Kauai and Molokai had two each.
Of all the confirmed infection cases, 1,815 have required hospitalization, with nine new hospitalizations reported Friday.
According to the latest information from the department’s Hawaii COVID-19 Data dashboard, 39 patients with the virus were in Hawaii hospitals as of Thursday morning, with 12 in intensive care units and eight on ventilators.
Friday’s seven-day average case count for the state was 41, and the seven-day average test positivity rate was 0.8%
Oahu’s seven-day average case count was 29, and the average positivity rate was 1.0%. If the numbers remain low in the coming days, Mayor Rick Blangiardi could relax some of Honolulu’s emergency rules for social and commercial activities as early as Thursday.