Governor: Pandemic isn’t over, but state’s emergency response to COVID is
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two years into the pandemic, the governor and state Health Department officials Wednesday outlined Hawaii’s ongoing transition away from an emergency response to COVID to one that focuses on “public health management.”
The discussion comes as the nation also moves to a new phase of the pandemic.
“COVID-19 isn’t going away. In fact, case counts are increasing and the experts expect that COVID will be with us for the foreseeable future,” Gov. David Ige said. “As part of the transition, COVID will be handled more like other diseases, something that healthcare providers diagnose and treat.”
Ige added that the state won’t abandon its COVID response.
There will still be genomic testing, infection monitoring and wastewater surveillance. But the governor said there are no plans to bring back mask mandates, vaccination rules or other restrictions.
- Experts: Daily COVID case count in Hawaii likely 7 times official figure
- Hawaii sees 3,370 new coronavirus infections, 11 additional deaths in past week
- Lei shops, parents frustrated as some schools place restrictions at graduation
And he urged residents to stay up-to-date on vaccinations.
“COVID will remain with us and we are transitioning to address current conditions,” the governor said. “We all must remain smart and careful as ever as we transition during this pandemic.”
Dr. Libby Char, state Health Department director, said it’s also important to stay home when you’re sick and seek out testing for COVID. She noted that free tests are widely available.
“We are still in a pandemic,” Char said. “That being said, our response to it ― it’s not sustainable. We knew we had to transition at some point.”
The state is scaling back its COVID response as federal pandemic dollars begin to dry up ― and as COVID infections locally and nationally are on the rise. The Health Department noted the daily confirmed case count in Hawaii is now about 360, up from the double digits in March.
Officials also pointed out the actual tally is much higher because of the availability of at-home tests.
“We are still seeing global transmission of COVID-19 and we are still seeing the emergence of new variants,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, state epidemiologist.
COVID hospitalizations have not gone up dramatically, but officials cautioned that they still could rise.
The state says it won’t be able to declare the pandemic over at least until the end of the winter season ― and that’s only if there isn’t a major increase in hospitalizations or deaths.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.