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Green touts money for shots: Says state may not reach 70% vaccination goal without further incentives

  • GREEN

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said people should receive $50 for each COVID vaccine shot they receive in order to boost vaccination rates as COVID cases continue to mount.

Green said during a livestream Friday that the state’s current spike in COVID cases can be traced to gatherings of unvaccinated people over the July 4 weekend, with the virus now spreading through unvaccinated communities.

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The state Department of Health on Friday reported 233 new COVID-19 cases statewide, and 1,634 total active cases.

Green, a Big Island physician, said 78% of those active cases are attributed to community spread, another 20% to infected Hawaii residents returning to the state, and 2% to tourists.

Only 3% of the cases were in vaccinated individuals, Green said.

According to Green, the state has the fourth-highest vaccination rate in the country, with 59% of the population fully vaccinated and 1.7 million doses so far administered.

However, he noted that the vaccination rate has plateaued, and may not reach 70% — the threshold at which Gov. David Ige said he would end COVID restrictions in the state — without additional incentives.

“It’s gonna take incentives to get us over the top,” Green said. “I have begun the process with the leadership team to really re-jump-start our incentives to get well over that 70% threshold that the Governor feels is important.

“And now, with the Delta variant, people are saying you want to get way over 70, even into the 80s or above, to get full protection for your society,” he continued.

Green said he will propose a $50-per-shot incentive program, where people who receive a COVID vaccine will get a card pre-loaded with $50 that the vaccinated person “can use to buy groceries.”

“Also, I’m going to propose, if someone brings two people to the vaccination site, then they also get a card,” he said. “First of all, it’s good because we’ve got a lot of food insecurity and people are struggling. Second, it’s a good investment for all of society.”

Green said he believes the state could implement the $50-per-shot program could be implemented within a week if there is sufficient political will. It could be paid for using state emergency response funds allocated for the pandemic.

Those who have already been vaccinated should also be eligible for “beefed-up” rewards programs, he said.

Green said $50 is understood to be the incentive threshold at which point people consider a change of behavior, and could sway some of the state residents who are “hemming and hawing” about whether to get vaccinated. However, Green noted that a not-insignificant percentage of the state population view the vaccine as a more loaded issue.

“Please, don’t make this a political thing, don’t look at this as ‘big government,’” he said. “Just look at this as a way to protect our children, our kupuna, and get back out of this.”

On the other hand, Green said the state cannot endure another year of economic depression caused by reinstating COVID precautions.

With only 71 COVID patients hospitalized Friday, Green said the state’s health care system is not being intolerably strained, and agreed that the state’s current reopening trajectory is still reasonable.

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But Green urged unvaccinated people to continue to wear masks indoors and avoid gatherings to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus within the community.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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