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Ige extends COVID-19 measures

LIHU’E — Gov. David Ige has signed an emergency proclamation to extend Hawaii’s measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic through the end of November.

“We continue to monitor the health-care situation in our islands, but we feel it’s important that we continue and extend the emergency proclamation today,” Ige said during the Friday afternoon announcement.

The order continues the state’s Safe Travels program, which is used to screen travelers visiting Hawai‘i, as well as mandates requiring that masks be worn indoors.

The new emergency proclamation will clarify that employers are not required to pay for costs related to testing employees who opt not to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

It will also restore civil-service requirements that the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations appoint employees on the basis of merit. Those requirements were suspended under previous emergency proclamations to make it easier for DLIR to hire enough staff to respond to the unemployment crisis caused by COVID-19.

Ige also once again extended the limit on renewing expired Hawai‘i driver’s licenses, which was set to expire on Oct. 4.

The news came as COVID-19 cases trend downward in Hawai‘i after the state saw its largest surge of the pandemic. But the danger is far from over, and the islands continue to see high numbers of new infections, both Ige and Dr. Libby Char, director of the state Department of Health, cautioned.

“We are heading in the right direction, but it is still too soon to let our guard down,” Char said. “We saw delta variant COVID cases increase every week for eight weeks. In the month of September, almost 200 of our friends, family and neighbors died from COVID-19. Many were in their 30s and 40s.”

Char also noted that there were still nearly a quarter-million adults in Hawai‘i not fully vaccinated and that despite the downward trend in cases, daily infections were still higher than at any point before the current surge began.

As a result of the high number of infections, the state is still relying on outside help to keep its health-care infrastructure afloat.

“We still have 650 health-care professionals from the mainland here to help us care for our patients,” Char said. “Tents remain in most of the hospitals’ emergency departments to expand capacity.”

Char also asked people to be patient with health-care staff across the state as they recover from the toll they paid during the surge.

“Our public-health, health-care and emergency-management brothers and sisters just came through 12 weeks of battle,” she said. “Please be patient as we allow them to catch their breath and as we all work to improve and further the trend in the right direction.”

Char and Ige repeatedly pleaded with Hawai‘i’s citizens to get vaccinated if they had not already, saying that doing so was the best way to end the hardships brought on by the pandemic.

When asked, Ige said his office is not considering any requirements for children under the age of 12 to be vaccinated to attend school. California became the first state in the U.S. to announce plans to require COVID-19 vaccination for school attendance on Friday.

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Kaleb Lay, general assignment reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or klay@thegardenisland.com.​
Source: The Garden Island

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