Gov. David Ige today urged parents to initially look to their children’s pediatricians 0nce COVID-19 vaccinations approved as expected this month for children ages 5 to 11.
Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” livestream program that state officials are notifying pediatricians to be prepared to represent the initial wave of vaccinations.
At the same time, Ige said his administration is working on plans to create mass school vaccination sites that are complicated because of several factors: limits on cold storage facilities to store the Pfizer vaccine and the desire to not spoil doses; parental permission; and the likely desire by some parents to need time off to accompany their children — especially younger ones — to vaccination sites.
Hawaii still has 430,000 residents who are not fully vaccinated, including 207,000 children, Ige said.
People who are eligible for the vaccine but have refused to get vaccinated make up less than 9% of the state’s population, he said.
Ige covered a range of COVID-19 related topics and offered encouraging signs for Hawaii’s economy, coming up on the 1-year anniversary of his Safe Travels program that slowed visitor arrivals — especially after Ige in August asked tourists to stay away at least through the end of this month.
Hawaii has still seen more than 7 million visitors — compared with the record 10 million in 2019 before the pandemic gave Hawaii the ignoble status of having the nation’s highest unemployment rate and worst economy.
Today, Ige said, Hawaii’s economy is performing “well ahead … of what we anticipated,” while acknowledging that many businesses continue to struggle and can’t find enough workers.
But in general, Ige said, “We are ahead of schedule.”
The bulk of arrivals continue to come from the mainland and Ige hopes to see a surge in international visitors who will have to follow mandates from the U.S. State Department and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to both be fully vaccinated and show proof of a negative test before boarding a flight to Hawaii.
Asked about pressure from the visitor and business community about amending his August plea for tourists to stay away, Ige said he will likely make an announcement “probably in the next week or two” but provided no details.
Personally — and for everyone else — Ige said holiday plans starting with Halloween should probably focus on outdoor activities that ensure that everyone be fully vaccinated, especially when eating and drinking are involved.
Having discussions about whether guests are vaccinated, “I do think that will be part of this next holiday season,” Ige said.
Overall, Ige said he hopes this year’s holiday season “won’t be as restricted as last year, for sure.”
Ige’s appearance on “Spotlight Hawaii” followed his Friday news conference with Mayor Rick Blangiardi to announce an easing of Oahu-only restrictions for indoor and outdoor gatherings. The new mandates also immediately eased Safe Access O’ahu requirements allowing alcohol service until midnight, instead of the previous mandate of 10 p.m.
The new rules also allow University of Hawaii officials to allow up to 1,000 friends and family to attend the last three UH home football games, and up to 500 to attend UH Wahine volleyball matches indoors.
Ige said he continues to talk to neighbor island mayors about potential easing their island-specific restrictions.