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Ige: COVID restrictions will likely remain in place until the fall

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 1:54 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 12, 2021 at 3:38 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige is standing by his plan to keep COVID restrictions in place until Hawaii reaches a 70% vaccination rate, saying dropping the rules early would be a mistake.

The governor believes that moving at the current pace, Hawaii could get to 70% by September.

“We believe the 70% target is good for us,” said Ige, speaking on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii livestream. “We’re making good progress. Those who are not vaccinated are the most vulnerable and those who are not eligible for the vaccinations are our children.”

Currently, anyone 12 and up is eligible for a vaccine.

Statewide, 68.6% of the population 12 and older is fully vaccinated, according to state Health Department statistics.

But the governor’s 70% vaccination benchmark refers to the total population. And as of Monday, some 58.6% of all Hawaii residents were fully vaccinated, state figures show.

[Related coverage: Pfizer to discuss COVID-19 vaccine booster with US officials]

Hawaii has eased COVID restrictions in recent months, most recently by expanding its so-called “vaccine passport” program to all US travelers and increasing allowable social gathering sizes.

Also, on Oahu, the governor gave the green light to lifting all capacity rules for restaurants and bars that either ask patrons for vaccine cards or a negative COVID result received in the last 48 hours.

The state’s indoor mask mandate remains in place, though.

And last week, that drew new concern from Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who publicly called for it to be dropped immediately. “The governor is very conservative and cautious but the science now dictates that we can take these decisions and move forward,” he told Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii is the only state in the nation with restrictions still in place for vaccinated people.

Ige noted that despite Hawaii’s high vaccination rate relative to other states, the islands are still seeing clusters of COVID infections ― overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated.

Hawaii saw two days of triple-digit increases in case counts over the weekend.

Ige said the upticks were likely linked to July Fourth celebrations, and he added it’s likely there will be more bumps ahead. There were 63 new COVID cases reported statewide Monday.

Nationally, meanwhile, a number of states are seeing more dramatic surges in infections. The governor noted that some COVID hotspots on the mainland are even bringing back restrictions or considering it.

“Once we move forward, I don’t want to be in a position to have to step back,” Ige said, responding to whether the indoor mask mandate could be dropped early.

“I’m committed to maintaining the mask mandate for now.”

This story will be updated.

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