Experts say gathering limits are too little too late, calling for changes to Safe Travels program

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 4:14 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some health care experts are calling gathering restrictions implemented earlier this month too little too late.

They say there needs to be a more aggressive approach to slow the spread of the virus.

One idea is to require everyone who enters the state to get a post-arrival COVID-19 test.

Most people working in health care agree, what happens over the course of this next month could push Hawaii’s hospitals beyond the brink.

“The vaccinations aren’t going to fix the next few weeks,” said Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

Dr. Scott Miscovich, founder of Premier Medical Group and a leading voice in COVID testing, added, “Our hospitalizations could double based on the numbers we have.”

New rules limiting the size of gatherings likely won’t do much to change things either — at least not right away.

“The changes in the capacity at bars and restaurants. That’s a 30-day change before we start seeing the impact in the spread,” Miscovich said. “And that’s only if the rules are enforced.”

Raethel says it’s likely the governor will need to implement even further restrictions, “including the re-testing of anyone coming into the state.”

Miscovich agreed.

He says, “a post-arrival test would be much more efficient in evaluating. We’re getting a minimum of 10% breakthrough right now, when you look at the major areas in the country. So just having a vaccine card is not a guarantee that you’re not going to walk onto our shores with COVID.”

At a press conference Friday morning, state health director Dr. Elizabeth Char said infected travelers are likely slipping through undetected.

“If they’re not testing it makes it really difficult to identify those people,” she said.

Gov. David Ige says they are evaluating the Safe Travels Program but emphasized he is trying to maintain balance.

“Getting our economy restarted. Getting people back to work. At the same time keeping our our community healthy and safe,” he said. “We do evaluate the data we see and we are considering changes to Safe Travels as we move forward.”

Health officials say the good news is vaccination rates are increasing. Right now just under 3,700 shots are being administered a day.

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