HONOLULU (KHON2) — Gov. David Ige held a news conference on Wednesday to discuss the state’s COVID-19 transition plan from emergency response to public health management.
Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) Director Dr. Elizabeth Char, State epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble and Department of Education (DOE) interim superintendent Keith Hayashi were in attendance.
The Islands are not out of the woods yet; COVID cases have gone up every week since Wednesday, March 30 but hospitalizations remain low and health officials said Hawaii is in a better place than before.
“The increase in cases is something we expected to see as many restrictions have been lifted,” Dr. Kemble said, “including Safe Travels and indoor mask mandates for public areas.”
Ige said they are transitioning to address current conditions and that COVID will be handled more like other diseases. No new mask mandates will be implemented at this time.
Dr. Kemble pointed out Hawaii’s high vaccination rate and access to COVID treatments are helping — local ICU beds did not have any COVID patients on Wednesday.
DOH reported 3,370 new coronavirus cases and 11 new deaths in its weekly update on Wednesday, April 27, with 2,107 cases on Oahu, 491 on the Big Island, 191 on Kauai, seven on Lanai, 390 on Maui, six on Molokai, and 178 diagnosed out of state. That brings the state total to 248,405.
The state stands at 77.2% of vaccinated residents.
“We have three main goals that we are following, and this mirrors the national plan as well,” Dr. Char said.
1. Protect against and treat COVID-19
2. Detect and prepare for new variants
3. Enhance community resilience
Watch the full news conference below:
Dr. Char shared that they’re transitioning more toward over-the-counter, at-home COVID tests that are easy to access. Click here for more info.
According to Dr. Kemble, Hawaii has a daily average of 362 COVID cases, which is up four-fold since mid-March. In addition, the results of home tests are not included in DOH’s weekly reporting data, so the numbers are even higher. Dr. Char added those that do test positive are in better hands than before.
“Early in the pandemic when you got sick, we didn’t have any treatment and we didn’t have any way to prevent it,” Dr. Char said. “And right now we have vaccines that are very effective, we’re learning more every month in terms of efficacy and how to best treat things, we have a whole bunch more medications, more monoclonal antibodies and antivirals.”
While most places — including public transportation — dropped mask requirements, the DOE is keeping their indoor mask mandate in place until the end of the school year. The DOH dashboard shows fewer than 5 children dying in Hawaii since the pandemic began, but Dr. Kemble said it is about their loved ones.
Some said it’s unfair to students who see the rest of the world enjoying life without masks at indoor events. Click here to read a letter from the DOE sent to parents.
“As much as we want to return to pre-COVID practices, we’re still in a pandemic and we must act accordingly,” Hayashi added.
He said the DOH has sent them 700,000 at-home COVID test kits. Schools have the flexibility to come up with their own safety protocols ahead of graduations.
Get more coronavirus news: COVID vaccines, boosters and Safe Travels information
“We all know what works. We all know what we can do to help fight against COVID-19,” said Ige. “Stay at home when you are sick. Wear a mask indoors and in crowded places. Get tested if you’re exposed or if you become symptomatic. Get vaccinated and up to date.”