An increasing number of Hawaii residents no longer see COVID-19 as much of a threat as they did in the earlier stages of the pandemic, according to a follow-up survey commissioned by the Hawaii State Department of Health.

The initial survey was conducted from April 17 to 23, and the follow-up survey was conducted from May 28 to June 7, 2020.

According to the study, the number of respondents who view the virus as a “very serious” health concern has fallen from 73% to 54% in less than two months.

“My concerns are we won’t socially distance quite as well and people won’t wear masks as religiously,” said Lieutenant Governor Dr. Josh Green. “So people should be reminded, and I want to say it very directly, we have to keep vigilant.”

The DOH follow-up survey also showed a change in attitude when it comes to preventative behaviors. Those who say they are social distancing “all of the time” has remained steady at 42%, the follow-up survey showed that fewer residents are following current recommendations “most of the time” or “part of the time.”

“It’s critically important for everyone to take COVID-19 seriously,” said Bruce Anderson, director of the Department of Health. “Recently, we’ve seen an increase in cases from community transmission. We cannot interpret the reopening of businesses, restaurants, parks and other places as a license to let our guards down. Indeed, it is more important than ever to adhere to prevention measures we know work.”

Notable differences between the first and second reporting periods include:

  1. A 19% decline among those who are staying away from friends and family members who aren’t a part of the household (from 72% to 53%);
  2. A 14% decline among those who are avoiding large groups and gatherings (from 85% to 71%);
  3. An 11% decline in the number who are staying six feet away from other people (from 74% to 63%);
  4. An 11% decline the number who are staying home as much as possible (from 62% to 51%); and
  5. A 9% drop among those who are avoiding handshakes and hugs (from 88% to 79%).

Green said that’s a concern with July 4 around the corner.

“If they’re in close quarters with anyone at all or if they’re indoors without their family members, absolutely wear masks, that’s the time to do it and that will suppress 75% of all spread, so it’s very important,” he said.

The survey showed more neighbor island respondents consider the virus a serious health concern compared to Oahu residents.

“Neighbor islands always feel like they’re on their own a little bit more, and have less in the way of health infrastructure so I think they tend to be a little more cautious about what could happen,” Green explained.

Green also said the lack of concern is most likely due to the state’s low fatality rate, and not having as many cases as the mainland.

“It’s not nearly as visible as it is in New York, California, Texas, or Florida so it’s human nature, but that can change really fast,” he said.

“Only now are we opening our kama’aina economy thoroughly, so there will be extra spread if we’re not careful and then in about five-weeks when travelers begin to return, even though we’ll have a test and a very, very thorough multi-layer system to protect ourselves, if we don’t have masks on, if we don’t socially distance, we will catch some cases from the mainland,” Green said.

On Saturday, Green said only 9% of the state’s ventilators are in use (40 of 459), “that’s the lowest number I’ve seen in all my years in Hawaii.”

“I don’t want us to let our guard down, I want us to use July to recommit to wearing masks to social distance, to being safe at restaurants, or wherever one goes, beaches, stuff like that so when we really start in August, it’s just second nature and you wear a mask when you’re out,” he said.