Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024|
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Gov. David Ige said in social media post Thursday that he might announce the end of some pandemic restrictions as early as today.
In a Facebook post Thursday morning, Ige wrote that because the number of COVID-19 cases is decreasing statewide, he could announce the end of certain restrictions “by the end of the week.”
“Now that we’re seeing a lower number of cases and hospitalized patients, I’m optimistic that by the end of this week we can announce that we will begin lifting some of those restrictions, while keeping the health and safety of our loved ones a top priority,” Ige’s post read. “I know many of you are ready to get back to normal, and we’re taking steps to get there.”
The post concluded with a promise that “updates will be made soon.”
But Mayor Mitch Roth said Hawaii County must be cautious about moving too quickly.
“We still have the highest test positivity rate in the state,” Roth said Thursday, when the county’s positivity rate was 5.2% compared to the statewide average of 3.2%. “And for a while, we had the highest death rate.”
Roth said he is less concerned about the county’s current health status than he was a month ago. But even though health facilities are under less pressure now — there were only 14 patients at Hilo Medical Center’s 11-bed ICU on Tuesday, compared to more than 20 a month ago — the threat of the virus remains.
On Thursday, there were 304 new COVID-19 cases reported statewide, a sharp increase from earlier in the week, when the total number of cases dropped below 100 on Tuesday.
Of those cases, 54 were on the Big Island.
Roth said there are certain restrictions Ige could lower safely, such as expanding the maximum allowable gathering size.
“As we get more people vaccinated, it makes sense to ease up on some of these (restrictions)” Roth said.
But other policies would cause more problems to rescind than to keep in place, Roth said.
Safe Travels, for example, will remain in place for the time being, he said, echoing a statement Lt. Gov. Josh Green made earlier this week predicting that the travel program will not be changed even as restrictions are lifted.
Meanwhile, Roth said a travel-related policy he had proposed to Ige remains under consideration.
Last month, Roth requested that the state regularly make available a publicly accessible list of individuals who opted to quarantine for 10 days upon arriving on the Big Island, instead of submitting proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to the Safe Travels program.
Last week, Ige said that proposal was still being considered by the state attorney general, and Roth said Thursday that the policy rests in the state’s hands.
Should the policy be approved, Roth said it would fall on the state to make the list publicly accessible.
Email Michael Brestovansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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