Lt. Gov. Josh Green said with current vaccination rates, there should be no restrictions on outdoor gatherings if events can confirm COVID-19 inoculations.
During a livestreamed interview Wednesday, Green said, “We’re going to have to live with COVID, because the word is endemic. That virus will be in all societies in every corner of the world, but if you’re (fully) vaccinated, you either won’t catch COVID or you won’t get sick if you do.”
Last Friday, Mayor Mitch Roth announced new rules about gathering sizes, increasing the maximum allowable outdoor gathering size from 10 to 25 people, with allowances for 50-person organized recreational gatherings at outdoor county facilities.
Tents and canopies are also allowed on beaches once again, and county pavilions are usable with proper permits for use.
“Outdoors is a safe place to be. It’s where you see almost no spread. We want people to be at beaches and to be enjoying themselves and we’re OK to do that,” Green said. “We want to encourage outdoor activities because that prevents people from having indoor events.”
Green said events like the Ironman should be able to come back to Hawaii as long as coordinators and organizers can confirm everyone’s vaccination status.
As far as indoor restrictions, Green said they should be gradually reduced in the foreseeable future.
“Eventually, it’s not going to make sense to wear (masks) all the time indoors, but we’re a little bit away from that right now,” Green said. “We were all traumatized by the Delta variant, because we thought we were out of the woods before we realized how contagious it is.”
The statewide positivity rate has dropped from 3.32% to 1.7% in the past two weeks with only 79 people hospitalized.
With hospitalizations down by almost 50% from two weeks ago, Gov. David Ige officially welcomed tourists back to the state.
“We are safe to open back up again. We never had cases from travelers that exceeded about 2% of total cases,” Green said. “This is what a lot of economic survival is based on and we are able to contain the cases because we have a ton of immunity right now.”
Green reported that more than 70% of the state’s population is vaccinated and about 93.4% of all the eligible population has gotten at least one shot. In the next couple weeks, children ages 5 to 11 may be able to start getting vaccinated as well.
Last week, the Associated Press reported that in the next three weeks, federal officials plan to discuss making smaller-dose versions available to the nation’s 28 million children between the ages of 5 and 11.
To help states and cities prepare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week sent out a seven-page document with guidance on how to set up expanded vaccination programs.
“About 60% of children between ages 5 to 11 will likely get the vaccine and that’s when I reflect on how many adolescents got vaccinated,” Green said. “People will make up their minds as individual families, and I’m encouraging people to make the right decisions for their family without demagoguing the issue.”
Green also said that it is unlikely schools would require children be vaccinated for in-person learning with how well the state is handling cases in schools, but does suggest that distance-learning options remain in place.
While COVID-19 cases decrease and more people become immune to the virus, Green predicts that the need for Safe Access Oahu and other vaccination verification will wane.
“Once there is so little virus in the state that we don’t have worries, and people traveling are vaccinated, then we should probably get rid of the Safe Oahu travels program,” Green said. “We really have come through this well but we want to move on from COVID eventually, and the way to do that is to get vaccinated and get boosters.”
Green also mentioned that widespread immunity and consistent vaccinations would cause the concern of COVID to subside over time, just like any other illness.
“We certainly should not anticipate always having to show a vaccine card,” Green said. “I think once society is very well vaccinated, we won’t be as focused on COVID as we used to be. I expect we won’t be talking about cases day to day in 2022.”
At the end of the livestream, Green was asked about when he’d announce his campaign for governor.
“Right now, to be frank, I’m very focused on finishing COVID off,” Green said. “I’m more worried about people in the ICU than I’m worried about myself potentially becoming governor, but Jamie and I will make an announcement as soon as we find it very appropriate.”
Email Kelsey Walling at firstname.lastname@example.org