Officials say ‘end of the pandemic’ is near, but health experts urge vigilance

Published: May. 26, 2021 at 6:33 PM HST|Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 7:11 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Officials are beginning to say it out loud: The pandemic in Hawaii may soon be over.

But epidemiologists are keeping a close eye on variants and outbreaks in other countries.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said major milestones are in reach for Hawaii — and before August, he hopes there won’t be any restrictions.

“If the counts continue to go down as we saw in the last 72 hours, we are going to start talking about the end of the pandemic in about two or three weeks,” Green said.

Green said the “end of the pandemic” in Hawaii will come when there are low case counts, few people in the hospital, and 1 million people are fully vaccinated.

“Sometime in a couple of weeks, we’ll be at 60% of all of our citizens being vaccinated,” Green said. “That’s when you’re gonna see the cases get very low. And that makes it easier to make these long-term policy calls with the governor.”

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami was ready to drop all restrictions with 70% of the county having at least one shot.

“I think we had a level of comfort,” Kawakami said. “We were at around 70% initiated we are in a pretty good place.”

But, the governor convinced the county to wait until 70% were fully vaccinated — that’s where most health experts are comfortable, especially with the virus out of control and mutating around the world.

“We like to focus on Hawaii, and we should, but Hawaii ties into the rest of the country and the Pacific,” said UH epidemiology assistant professor and co-chair of HiPam, Thomas Lee.

“It’s not over until it’s over, until we see what happens worldwide over the years,” said Edward Desmond, a state lab director.

Lee said the reality is that the virus will never truly be out of mind.

“People need to realize COVID will be part of our normal routine, moving forward, just like the flu is,” Lee said.

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