Hawaii is at the ‘beginning of the end of the pandemic’ with herd immunity on the horizon; Officials warn not to let guard down


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The end of the pandemic is on the horizon, according to health officials.

Things look good since COVID cases continue go down and Hawaii reached a 70% vaccination rate, but medical professionals are warning everyone to not let their guard down and continue to take precautions.

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When can everyone toss their masks or travel and eat out without needing to show proof of vaccination? When will things truly get back to normal? There is light at the end of the tunnel, but officials are urging everyone to stay the course a little longer.

“We’re seeing the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green said, “it’s not totally over yet, there’s still been cases.”

But those numbers are going down. According to Department of Health spokesman Brooks Baehr, the average daily cases dropped 55% since the beginning of October.

“At the peak of this surge, we were experiencing more than 800 new cases of COVID a day,” Baehr said. “Now we’re down to 123 cases over the seven-day average. So we’re absolutely headed in the right direction.”

Hawaii hit the benchmark of 70% of its population being fully vaccinated on Friday, Oct. 15, bringing the state closer to herd immunity.

“As a physician, herd immunity appears to have begun to set in,” Green explained.

“When you see the population reach over 90% initiation of vaccination, and the case counts dropping 50% every two weeks,” Green said, “that is the kind of definition of decreased risk and herd immunity.”

But Hawaii is not there yet, according to Green, and the virus determines what comes next as witnessed this summer — there is no magic number.

“At one point, we were going to be talking about removing all restrictions at 70% and then the dastardly delta variant came along and just changed the game,” Baehr said. “And we’ve had to adapt and we don’t know what’s around the next corner.”

Baehr is cautiously optimistic, however.

“So again, you ask, is there light at the end of the tunnel? Absolutely. But it’s a long tunnel,” he said.

The virus will still be around, according to Brooks, even when the pandemic is over.

“The end of the pandemic is going to be different for people who are vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated,” Baehr explained. “For those of us who are vaccinated, we’re going to enjoy a significant amount of protection against COVID-19. But for those who are unvaccinated, COVID-19 will remain a serious, serious threat.”

“Also, we should see just small outbreaks, but not big surges,” Green added. “So you’ll see small outbreaks of the virus in 2022 and 2023 in areas where their vaccination rates are only say 55 or 60%. “

In many ways, though, life will return to normal. No one really knows what will happen.

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

“Exactly what does the end of the pandemic look like? We’re not exactly sure,” Baehr said.

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