Hawaii will come close to meeting President Joe Biden’s nationwide goal of having all adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations by May 1, but the islands likely will be a week or two behind schedule, Gov. David Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii online video program Wednesday.
Hawaii is now receiving 68,000 to 70,000 doses of vaccine per week — about half for the initial injection and half for a second dose, Ige said.
And more deliveries of the coveted one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine are on the way, Ige said.
“We should be getting more doses of Johnson & Johnson in the next week or so and then there will be a steady supply of Johnson & Johnson that we’ll be distributing and that’s a pretty significant increase of the number of doses that we do have,” Ige said. “So I do think we’re on track to meet the president’s goal. It might be a week or two later, but the vaccinations are going real well.”
During a recent call with the White House, Ige said he asked about the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations for children.
“I get that question a lot about our students,” he said.
Clinical trials are underway for vaccinations of high school students. Some vaccines are available for those 16 years and older and the White House anticipates vaccines for high schoolers near the end of summer, Ige said.
But vaccinations for middle and elementary school children are “really out in the future,” he said. “They don’t anticipate any vaccine for younger children until 2022.”
Discussions with the White House continue about a so-called visitor vaccine passport that would identify vaccinated travelers to possibly avoid quarantine or additional COVID-19 testing.
The White House COVID-19 coordinator “calls it a vaccine validation” and discussions are expected to resume during next week’s call with the White House, Ige said.
“We will be talking about that more next week,” he said. “It’s something that’s on their radar.”
Asked about hopes of lowering the penalty for not wearing a mask from the current misdemeanor to a mere citation, Ige said it’s unlikely to happen this legislative session.
His office later clarified that the latest version Senate Bill 540 is still alive.
“It would allow for lesser emergency period penalties to be adopted by the governor or a mayor so citations could be issued for non- compliance re: mask wearing,” his spokeswoman wrote in an email to the Star-Advertiser.
Airlines, the visitor industry and hotels are working to remind tourists of Hawaii’s rules through in-flight videos, in-room videos and signage, he said.
“We do have a mask mandate that they are required to wear masks indoors and outdoors any time they’re within 6 feet of another individual,” Ige said.
Asked about reports of large gatherings, Ige said:
“We want to be careful that we don’t start another surge that would lead to a much much more devastating shutdown again. … It’s too early to let our guard down. We need to be vigilant. We need to wear our mask. We need to maintain distance.”
In response to a question, Ige said he is concerned about the rising cost of the city’s troubled rail project, which is now expected to cost $12.449 billion and has a shortfall of $3.577 billion.
“The rapid increase in the cost is, again, just making it a much bigger challenge,” Ige said. “I do believe that the transit system is the best option for transportation here in the islands. … We have to find a way to finish the project. The president is talking about a big infrastructure bill. I’m hoping that it happens. I’m hoping that that might lead to additional support from the federal government.”
“I would like to see it completed,” Ige said. “It needs to be completed.”
Hawaii Department of Health officials on Wednesday reported three new coronavirus-related deaths and 58 new infections, bringing the state’s totals since the start of the pandemic to 457 fatalities and 28,950 cases.
No further information was immediately available regarding the latest deaths — two on Oahu and one on Maui.
The state’s official coronavirus-related death toll includes 363 deaths on Oahu, 53 on Hawaii island, 37 on Maui, one on Kauai, and three Hawaii residents who died outside the state.
The U.S. coronavirus- related death toll Wednesday was more than 544,000 and the nationwide infection tally is more than 29.9 million.
Wednesday’s new statewide infection cases included 24 on Oahu; 22 on Maui; seven on Hawaii island; one on Kauai; one on Molokai and three Hawaii residents diagnosed outside the state, according to health officials.
The statistics reflect new infection cases reported to the department on Monday.
The total numbers of coronavirus cases by island since the start of the outbreak are 22,662 on Oahu; 2,659 on Maui; 2,392 in Hawaii County; 188 on Kauai; 110 on Lanai and 34 on Molokai. There are also 905 Hawaii residents who were diagnosed outside of the state.
Health officials also said that of the state’s total infection count, 897 cases were considered to be active. Officials consider infections reported in the past 14 days to be a “proxy number for active cases.” The number of active cases in the state increased by 12.
Oahu has 495 active cases; Maui has 293; the Big Island has 98; Molokai has seven; Kauai has two and Lanai has two.
Health officials counted 6,531 new COVID-19 test results in Wednesday’s tally, for an 0.89% statewide positivity rate. The state’s seven- day average positivity rate is 1.4%, according to the Hawaii COVID-19 Data dashboard.
The Hawaii COVID-19 vaccine summary said Wednesday that 558,043 vaccine doses have been administered of the 716,290 received by the state. About 24% of the general population in Hawaii has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Of those who have received at least one vaccine dose so far, 50% are age 59 or younger, while 50% are age 60 or older. Of the administered vaccine doses, 533,179 were given to the general public and 24,864 were distributed through the federal pharmacy program, officials said.
Of all the confirmed Hawaii infection cases, 1,961 have required hospitalizations, with four new hospitalizations reported Wednesday by state health officials.
Eight hospitalizations in the statewide count are Hawaii residents who were diagnosed and treated outside the state. Of the 1,953 hospitalizations within the state, 1,673 have been on Oahu; 161 on Maui; 105 on the Big Island; eight on Kauai; five on Lanai and one on Molokai.
According to the latest information from the department’s Hawaii COVID-19 Data dashboard, a total of 33 patients with the virus were in Hawaii hospitals as of Wednesday morning, with seven in intensive care units and four on ventilators.
Oahu moved into the less-restrictive Tier 3 of the city’s four-tier economic recovery plan on Feb. 25 after being in Tier 2 since Oct. 22. Tier 3 permits social and outdoor recreational gatherings of up to 10 people, and restaurants to seat 10 people at a table, up from five. Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi on March 11 announced modifications to Tier 3, including allowing bars to reopen under the same conditions as restaurants and extending the curfew until midnight.
Wednesday’s’s seven-day average case count for Oahu was 40 and the seven-day average positivity rate is 1.5%, according to the mayor.