Governor defends push to reach 70% vaccination rate before ending restrictions

Published: Jun. 10, 2021 at 5:39 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 4:52 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige on Thursday defended his plan to end all COVID restrictions when Hawaii reaches a vaccination rate of 70%, saying the goal is doable.

In fact, he thinks Hawaii can reach the benchmark by the end of summer ― optimism shared by a number of Hawaii experts.

“I do think we are on track,” said Ige. “We are making good progress.”

Under a plan he outlined last week, all COVID restrictions in Hawaii would essentially end when the state reaches 70%.

So no more indoor mask mandate, no more travel restrictions and no more capacity limits.

[Read more: Ige sets statewide ‘vaccination benchmarks’ for easing restrictions on restaurants, gatherings]

“We are hoping that gets back to normal. Restaurants can reopen at full capacity and we can begin school activities back to pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

Would dropping all restrictions be safe?

“We do believe that it would be safe,” said Ige. “We will continue to monitor the new cases that we see. We are very concerned about the variant.”

[Read more: Experts optimistic that Hawaii could get to 70% vaccinated by end of summer]

Ige also said that if there are outbreaks and the health care industry is threatened, he would tighten restrictions again regardless of the vaccination rate.

“So far we’ve seen that all the variants are still controlled by the vaccinations that we are offering,” he said. “So that’s great news, but we also know elsewhere in the US and around the world the vaccination rates are not as high as they are here.”

About 766,000 or 54% of the state’s more than 1.4 million-plus residents are fully vaccinated.

Another 229,000 residents need all their shots to reach the goal. One challenge: About 15% of the population is under 12 years old and not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

Despite the challenges, Ige said outreach, new incentives, and community partnerships are helping.

President Biden set a goal of 70% of American adults having at least one shot by July Fourth. While the U.S. is unlikely to meet that goal, Ige says Hawaii is on track.

“I think we will be able to make it here in the state of Hawaii,” he said.

The state’s epidemiologist has said reaching herd immunity is not about one specific number, but Ige says the benchmarks were created to give the community a tangible goal.

“It does follow the science but public health is about trying to balance the science with some sense of practicality,” said Ige.

“The state epidemiologist, they were a little concerned about setting benchmarks. The science says it’s not that cut and dry.”

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