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Lt. Gov. Josh Green warns of surge of COVID-19 cases if people let down their guard

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                                Hawaii recorded over 100 new coronavirus infections statewide Monday for the third consecutive day. Waikiki was filled with beach­goers Monday.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Hawaii recorded over 100 new coronavirus infections statewide Monday for the third consecutive day. Waikiki was filled with beach­goers Monday.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green warned Hawaii residents that the number of corona­virus cases could continue to rise if people let their guard down and hold large gatherings.

As the average number of new cases continues to rise, Green said during Monday morning’s Spotlight Hawaii that this is not the time to “push the envelope” and that case counts could jump into the 200s again if people are not careful. Also, that the majority of people now catching the coronavirus are ages 18 to 44.

Green called for continued vigilance for another two weeks in order to prevent another surge in cases, which he said is very much possible.

“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.”

Although most younger people do not get “super sick” with the coronavirus, Green said they are certainly not immune and can still be hospitalized.

“You can die from COVID in your 30s and 40s, especially if you have underlying health conditions, so I would not be taking risks,” he said. “I would not be going to large gatherings at all, and I would certainly be wearing your mask when going out.”

The recent uptick in new COVID-19 cases, and triple- digit numbers, are “a reflection of increased activity” and more people gathering and “not being quite safe enough,” he said, since Oahu opened up to Tier 3 in late February.

“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 (about) 25% of our people vaccinated right now.”

He suggested that people follow the “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” philosophy and that everyone, in his opinion, should behave as if Oahu was back in Tier 1 or 2.

The state Health Department on Monday reported 103 new coronavirus infections statewide, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 29,511 cases.

They include 52 cases on Oahu, 36 on Maui, 10 on Hawaii island and five Hawaii residents diagnosed out of state. There were no new deaths, keeping the state’s death toll at 462.

The average number of cases has been on an upward trend since late February, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

As of Monday, 604,570 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, up more than 36,000 from the previous day. Approximately 27% of Hawaii’s population has received at least one dose.

Green 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.

He said he was more concerned about the community spread of the coronavirus now than of cases brought in by the growing number of travelers.

In its Thursday report of COVID-19 clusters, the Health Department reported the following on Oahu: two clusters from educational settings, resulting in 22 cases; two at restaurants, resulting in 19 cases; and one at a construction and industrial setting, resulting in eight cases.

On Maui two clusters were associated with bars and nightclubs, generating 16 cases; three with travel, lodging and tourism, generating 15 cases; and one with a place of worship, generating 25 cases, among others.

The good news is that COVID-19 vaccinations appear to be working, said Green. 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 Monday opened up vaccination eligibility to those 60 and up, and is currently vaccinating those younger that are being treated with oxygen for severe respiratory conditions, those on dialysis, chemotherapy or other infusion therapy, as well as essential workers at hotels, restaurants and bars.

Green said the state was due to get another 81,260 doses this week, including 8,400 Johnson & Johnson vaccines, 28,400 Moderna vaccines and 44,460 Pfizer vaccines.

The best bet for those still trying to get COVID-19 vaccine appointments would be to check for open slots at CVS.com or Safeway pharmacies, which might have more availability, he said. Places like CVS’ Longs Drugs are allotted vaccines separately via the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

The Queen’s Medical Center’s newest mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic is now open in West Oahu, and Kaiser Permanente Hawaii’s mass vaccination site at Kapolei’s Consolidated Theatres opens today.

More appointments should also be available in the next two weeks, said Green. He encouraged all who are eligible to sign up and get vaccinated.

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