Hawaii health officials urge vigilance with 32% of population not fully vaccinated


HONOLULU (KHON2) — On Friday, Oct. 1, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) and Gov. David Ige said the state is heading in the right direction, following September’s delta surge.

COVID cases, hospitalizations and the positivity rate have all dropped and vaccination rates have gone up. However, some health officials believe there are still too many people statewide who are vulnerable to catching COVID and that we are not in the clear just yet.

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At the beginning of September, the state was at the peak of the delta surge. On Thursday, Sept. 2, the state reported 1,068 cases and was averaging 881 cases; there were also already more than 11,000 active coronavirus cases. On Saturday, Oct. 2, the state reported 279 cases, a 3.7% positivity rate and 4,653 active cases.

“We’re still seeing a significant amount of COVID transmission in the community because we still have hundreds of thousands of people who are not yet fully vaccinated,” explained Brooks Baehr, Hawaii DOH spokesperson. “In fact, we have about 450,000 Hawaii residents who are not yet fully vaccinated.”

According to state data, as of Friday, Oct. 1, there are 131,917 residents who are eligible for the COVID vaccine but still have not gotten it. There are 207,482 kids — from newborns to 11-year-olds — who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. There are also 118,936 people who have initiated getting the vaccine but have not yet completed or received their second dose.

All of these numbers leave roughly 458,335 people statewide who are at-risk.

“That’s enough people that the delta variant can begin to move around again,” explained Baehr.

He said tens of thousands of people are still in the waiting period to get their second shot, but many people have not yet shown up for their second dose.

“The first shot gives you some protection, but you really want to follow the science. Go get that second shot, and get yourself fully protected against COVID-19,” he continued.

The DOH said there have been about 8,400 pediatric cases since the beginning of August, and while most children do not get severely ill, those not eligible for the vaccine can still carry and spread the virus.

“And the virus will continue to move around until it finds somebody who, perhaps, is susceptible to severe illness,” said Baehr. “And that can be bad news. So those of us who can get vaccinated should get vaccinated will help protect the youngsters who are not yet eligible.”

Other people have natural immunity but health officials said vaccine immunity is more effective and lasts longer.

“Over 5% of our population has had confirmed COVID,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green. “And I’m sure the number is much higher because we don’t test everyone.”

On Friday, Gov. Ige extended the COVID emergency proclamation through Tuesday, Nov. 30. Green said 90% of the eligible population has at least one dose of the vaccine and thinks restrictions should be revisited in a few weeks to benefit the people who have gotten vaccinated.

“When we go below 3% positivity rate, that’s usually the standard to really pull back on restrictions, especially when your people are so well vaccinated,” Green added.

Green believes the delta variant has run its course but “people have to be self-sensible.”

The DOH said if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that COVID is unpredictable.

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“450,000 people are way too many people to say that, you know, the surge is over,” Baehr said. “We don’t determine what herd immunity is. The virus determines what herd immunity is and the virus, in many ways, has been in charge of this pandemic,” he said. “The best way we can take charge of the pandemic is to go get vaccinated.”

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