If COVID-19 restrictions ease and case counts surge again, Gov. David Ige today warned that a new round of restrictions could be even more severe.
New restrictions were announced by Ige and Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi in July “and the case counts continued to increase for six weeks,” Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii livestream program. “Until right before Labor Day we averaged 900 to 1,000 cases per day. I guess I’m a very conservative guy. I do know that if we relax the restrictions too much and we see a surge in cases, then the next restrictive period or the next time where we’re going to limit interactions will even be longer and probably be even more restrictive than right now.”
While the seven-day average of new cases has fallen from 1,000 to 350, Ige said they are “still clearly at that level that could surge again.”
Ige is no longer using a benchmark of a 70% vaccination rate to remove restrictions, which include limits on indoor and outdoor crowd sizes, vaccination and testing mandates for Oahu businesses and a ban on fans at University of Hawaii sports.
Ige’s original idea in June was to reach a target of a 60% vaccination rate by July 8 that would increase the size of gatherings — then eliminate all restrictions when eventually reaching a 70% vaccination rate.
But the delta variant changed everything and Ige no longer uses vaccination rates as a benchmark, his office told the Star-Advertiser.
As of today, 67.7% of the state’s total population has been fully vaccinated.
Ige declined to specify what conditions could lead him to ease some restrictions, but repeatedly suggested that reducing the pressure on Hawaii’s health care system likely would be a key indicator — specifically the removal of hospital outdoor tents used to treat some patients and the departures of more than 650 traveling nurses and other out-of-state health care workers.
“Without them our health care system would definitely be on the brink of collapse,” Ige said. “We are still very, very close to capacity and we need to remain vigilant.”
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