Hawaii is on track to reach herd immunity from COVID-19 more quickly than expected, said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.
More than 72% of Hawaii residents older than 18 have had at least one vaccine dose, the highest percentage in the country, Green said during a livestreamed interview Monday. More than 58% of the state’s total population has received at least one dose, the third-highest in the nation.
Green said he expects a large drop in COVID-19 cases during the next several weeks as the state gets closer to 75% vaccine distribution, which has been identified as the threshold to reach herd immunity.
“Much of the country won’t reach herd immunity, we’re now hearing, but we will,” Green said.
Based on the rate of vaccine distribution, Green said the state has “no excuse” to not fully reopen schools in the fall.
“Number one, the state of Hawaii will have reached herd immunity by then. … Two, children will also be allowed to get vaccinated by then, at least down to age 12 and probably down to age 5,” Green said. “I think school looks normal next year.”
Green added that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could announce that masks are unnecessary for vaccinated people indoors by the time school begins in the fall, adding that he has been pushing Gov. David Ige to relax the state’s mask mandates to match CDC recommendations.
Currently, the state allows people to be unmasked while outside, but only if they maintain 6 feet of distance from other people. The CDC recently announced, however, that fully vaccinated people can safely go about unmasked while outdoors, regardless of distance.
Beginning today, Hawaii residents are able to travel within the state without requiring preflight testing or a 10-day quarantine, providing they can show proof that they were vaccinated in Hawaii at least two weeks before traveling.
If this program goes well, Green said he will ask Ige to consider allowing vaccinated Hawaii residents to return from the mainland without preflight testing using the Safe Travels program.
The state is also tentatively planning to allow all vaccinated travelers to arrive from the mainland without testing or quarantine by July 4, Green said.
With a sharp influx of tourists to the state expected this year, Green said he does not approve of a bill before the governor that would significantly cut funding for the Hawaii Tourism Authority. House Bill 862, among other things, eliminates a major funding source for HTA and limits its responsibilities in an effort to curb spending.
Green said 21,936 travelers came to Hawaii from the mainland Sunday.
“We need them to be well informed and know what’s safe in Hawaii. … International travel is going to have to be rebooted, basically … so I’m not too keen on the cuts to HTA, frankly,” he added.
Green added that the decision to sign or veto HB 862 rests entirely in Ige’s hands, and that Ige has not shared his thoughts on the matter.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.