The number of coronavirus cases could continue to rise if people let their guards down and hold large gatherings, Lt. Gov. Josh Green warned Hawaii residents during this morning’s Spotlight Hawaii conversation.
As the number of cases rise into triple-digit numbers in recent days, Green said that this is not the time to “push the envelope” and that cases could surge into the 200s range again if people are not careful. In addition, younger people now make up the largest group catching the coronavirus.
“Just two weeks of mellow, calm low-spreading risk will make all the difference,” he said. “The last thing we want is to fight through a surge of COVID for two months while we’re trying to vaccinate people. It’ll be much harder.”
The largest group of people catching COVID-19 now are between the ages of 18 to 44, he said. Although most younger people do not get “super sick,” he said they are not immune from catching COVID, and can still end up in the hospital.
“You can die from COVID in your 30s and 40s especially if you have underlying health conditions,” said Green, “so I would not be taking risks. I would not be going to large gatherings at all, and I would certainly be wearing your mask when going out.”
Green also said that the recent uptick in new COVID-19 cases, and triple-digit numbers are “a reflection of increased activity” as well as more people gathering and “not being quite safe enough.” More cases translate into more hospitalizations, which have also been on the rise, he said.
“A lot of people have been getting a false sense of security because we delivered 604,570 vaccination shots in arms plus another 100,000 from the military and so people think we’re safer,” he said. “But we only have 25% of our people vaccinated right now.”
He expects the state to have vaccinated 1 million people, an important milestone for Hawaii’s population of about 1.4 million, by May. Until then, there are still risks, he said.
Today, the state Health Department reported a total of 103 new coronavirus infections statewide, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 29,511 cases. No new deaths were reported.
The cases today, which reflect new infections reported to the department on Saturday, include 52 on Oahu, 36 on Maui, 10 on Hawaii island and five Hawaii residents diagnosed out of state, according to health officials.
On the flip side, Green said COVID-19 vaccinations appear to be working, and that Hawaii residents 65 and older now represent the lowest rate of infections in the state.
“We’ve seen that the case counts drop off like a steep cliff for those who’ve gotten vaccinated if they’re 65 and older,” he said, “and fewer people are in the hospital that are in that age category.”
The state opened up vaccination eligibility to those 60 and up today, and Green said the state was due to get another 81,260 doses this week, including 8,400 Johnson and Johnson vaccines, 28,400 Moderna vaccines, and 44,460 Pfizer vaccines.
The best bet for those trying to get COVID-19 vaccine appointments would be to check for open slots at CVS.com or Safeway pharmacies, which may have more availability, he said. Places like CVS’s Longs Drugs are allotted vaccines separately via a Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
More appointments should also be available in the next two weeks, he said. He encouraged all that are eligible to sign up and get vaccinated.