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Green: ‘Really large percentage’ of population should be COVID-immune by summer

Lt. Gov. Josh Green reiterated his confidence Monday that the COVID-19 crisis largely will be over in Hawaii by the summer.

In a livestreamed interview Monday, Green said that based the rate of vaccine distribution in the state, 350,000 doses will be administered by the beginning of March, and the number will increase each month until more than a million are administered by June.

“And that means a really large percentage of our population will be immune by summertime,” Green said, adding that he expects events like weddings and graduations will consequently be safe again.

Green said he wished more vaccine doses were available, adding that Hawaii is capable of administering 80,000 doses per week, but is only receiving a little more than 40,000 weekly. He also noted that most of the state’s most vulnerable groups are expected to be immunized by the end of March, which will cause the rate of COVID fatalities to drop dramatically.

COVID cases already are quite low in the Hawaii. Only 35 new cases were reported Monday, 25 of which were on Oahu, and none of which were on the Big Island. There currently are 895 active cases statewide, with 45 on the Big Island.

There were no new deaths Monday, leaving the statewide total death toll at 426.

According to the state Department of Health, 236,649 doses of the vaccines have been administered within Hawaii as of Friday, and 10% of the total population currently has received at least one dose.

With more of the population being vaccinated, Green said he expects COVID restrictions will lift soon. In particular, he said schools may be able to reopen by May 15.

“The time is at hand. I do not want to see us wait until the fall term,” Green said.

Furthermore, Green said he expects amendments to the state’s travel policies to take effect as early as next month.

By March 1, Green said he believes workers identified as critical by the federal government will be allowed to travel to the state without any quarantine restrictions if they can prove they have received the second dose of COVID vaccine at least two weeks before arrival.

By April 1, Green said, that rule should be extended to all interisland travelers, and to all mainland travelers by May 1.

“I think this is going to be the international policy going forward,” Green said, predicting that vaccination status will eventually be marked on travel documents like passports worldwide.

Of course, Green said, there are still obstacles that could threaten the state’s eventual reopening. In particular, he mentioned the possible introduction of new COVID-19 variants that are believed to be more virulent than the initial strain.

But even though two cases of a more contagious Danish strain — designated L452R — were detected in Hawaii late last month, Green said the number of positive COVID cases has continued to decrease, which he said indicates that, for now, the more virulent strains have not gained a significant foothold.

On the other hand, Green said the state is still monitoring for two other strains, one originating from the United Kingdom — two cases of which were confirmed in the state last week — and one from South Africa, which could set back the state’s recovery were they to become widespread within Hawaii.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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