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Hawaii infectious disease expert warns pandemic could last at least 2 more years

Top stories from across Hawaii and around the world, as seen on the 6 p.m. news broadcast from Hawaii News Now.
Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 4:38 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 11, 2021 at 4:58 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A respected infectious disease expert from Hawaii is warning we could be in this pandemic for at least two more years.

His forecasts and advice are hard to accept, but he says it’s an unvarnished look at science and the contagious delta variant.

“I’m going to close with telling you something you don’t want to hear,” said Dr. Tim Brown, a senior fellow at the East-West Center and an infectious disease expert, at the end of his Zoom presentation last week.

“When will this pandemic be over? It ain’t going to be at the end of this year. It probably ain’t going to be at the end of next year. Honest truth we are in the long haul with COVID. You are looking at probably another two to three years of dealing with this,” he said during his presentation.

This week, HNN spoke with Brown in a one-on-one interview.

“I’m not going to make a prediction with exactly how long. I will say it will almost certainly be with us through at least 2023,” said Brown.

He says the delta variant was a game changer, with variants emerging every six months and only 28% of the world vaccinated. Hawaii and the rest of the U.S. are not immune.

“People want to sugar coat things and oh yeah it’s going to be better two months from now, three months from now. It’s not,” said Brown.

“We are probably going to be in the delta surge for another two to three months and following that, we are probably be going into the Thanksgiving and Christmas surge,” he added.

He says contact tracing studies in Singapore showed superspreader events with vaccinated people infecting other vaccinated people.

“You can see many of the infections in this outbreak were among vaccinated people,” said during his presentation.

“And to make it worse, these red dots mean it was an asymptomatic transmission,” he added.

He explains breakthrough infections.

“For the first four to five days after you get infected, the vaccinated and unvaccinated have almost the same viral load,” he said.

He does say vaccinated people get better faster and are far less likely to get seriously ill. The vast majority in hospitals are not vaccinated.

While Hawaii leaders have said all restrictions would drop at the 70% vaccination benchmark, the governor is reconsidering it.

“We will be making an assessment about what the appropriate vaccination rate would be necessary in order for us to reduce all the restrictions,” said Gov. David Ige on Tuesday.

Brown says the new target should be 100% to stop deaths and severe illness and while he doesn’t support a full lockdown, be believes the new restrictions don’t go far enough.

“I think the 10-person restriction on indoor groups with no commentary on keeping to groups from the same household or a close bubble of friends is not likely to be very effective,” said Brown.

Brown says continued vaccination, masking and distancing are key and he believes Hawaii’s Safe Travels program should reimpose testing for everyone.

During this pandemic, Brown says he’s not getting on a plane or eating in a restaurant.

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