HONOLULU (KHON2) — Gov. David Ige held a news conference on Monday with state health director Dr. Elizabeth Char and interim superintendent Keith Hayashi to discuss back-to-school safety.

Public school students head back to class on Tuesday despite the surge in coronavirus cases. Lt. Gov. Josh Green joined Wake Up 2day to discuss the topic.

“As of right now, the governor has decided not to delay school opening. This is very fluid,” Green said.

“I’ve spoken to leaders all across the spectrum of Hawaii, and they’re very worried that if we lose another year of school, it could be catastrophic,” he explained. “At the same time — this is the great caveat — we have to protect our hospital system and our capacity to care for people.”

“We have a layered strategy for opening safely,” Ige said during Monday’s news conference. “First, we are promoting COVID-19 vaccinations among all stuff and eligible students 12 years of age and older.”

There are more than 400 locations across the state to get vaccinated. Click here to find the nearest location.

Second, Ige said staff and students are directed to stay home when they’re sick. The third point of strategy to make sure schools are safe is to follow correct and consistent masking, and the fourth, is to emphasize hand hygiene. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer regularly.

Across the islands, COVID-19 cases are up nearly 200% in the past two weeks. On Monday, the Hawaii State Department of Health reported 365 COVID-19 cases: 222 on Oahu, 76 on the Big Island, 44 on Maui, 14 on Kauai, and 9 residents diagnosed out of state. Click here for an in-depth breakdown.

That brings the state total to 43,227.

At this time, Ige has not mandated teachers and eligible students to get vaccinated, although he echoes the message Dr. Char shared, which is that everyone should get vaccinated if they can.

“Get vaccinated. That is our most powerful tool right now, and we should take full advantage of it,” she said. “Stay away from really large gatherings and just minimize your exposure. By doing this we keep our community safe and that will help to protect the children who are too young to get vaccinated. So if you can keep your household safe, that will translate to keeping your children safe, and that will translate to keeping our schools safe.”

Healthcare facilities across the state are moving forward with putting employee vaccination mandates in place, as the Delta variant continues to cause increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases across Hawaii.

The trade association for hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health agencies and hospices — Healthcare Association of Hawaii — announced Monday that its policy will now support mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers, allowing for exceptions.

Four of the state’s largest health care systems are making policy changes as well. Click here to read more.