HONOLULU (KHON2) — As the state and counties begin to drop COVID restrictions, the Hawaii Department of Health says we’re picking up positive momentum in the pandemic. The DOH and other agencies are now transitioning COVID resources as we return to normal.

Contact tracing was one of the tools the state used to prevent the spread of COVID. Now, with numbers declining the Health Department says contact tracers are still around, but are now focusing on cases in long term care facilities and schools instead.

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Meanwhile, when it comes to the indoor mask mandate, the DOH says:

“As counties loosen restrictions, it is important to remember we are still living in a pandemic.  We can maintain the positive momentum we enjoy if we continue to respect one another by staying up to date on our vaccines and wearing masks in indoor public spaces.

Hawaii’s high vaccination rate, smart approach to masks, and our aloha for one another has contributed to Hawaii having the second lowest COVID-19 death rate in the country.”

Hawaii Department of Health

COVID hospitalizations are down, but about 500 FEMA nurses are still in the islands. Local hospitals are working to keep them here as FEMA funding expires on April 1.

“We don’t yet have enough staff in the state to be able to take care of 2,300 patients,” said Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii President. “So that’s a couple 100 patients more than what we would normally have, but we are looking at a number of initiatives to keep expanding healthcare workforce.”

When hospitals were inundated with COVID patients, field hospitals popped up. Honolulu Emergency Medical Services says those will be used for other emergencies.

“It can be used for not only say isolation during a pandemic, but they may be used as temporary shelters in the case of a hurricane or even temporary stations for EMS if we had a tsunami or if any of our stations are impacted by inundation,” said Christopher Sloman, EMS Acting Chief.

The Department of Education will continue to follow its safety guidance which requires masking both indoors and outdoors and social distancing in cafeterias. However, events like concerts and proms are getting the green light to return this school year with proper safety mitigation in place.

The DOH is reminding the public that we’re still living in a pandemic. Health experts say it’s been a long road to return to numeral, but we’re heading in the right direction.

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“We have better tools, treatments, vaccinations, a better understanding of how the disease travels and spreads,” said Dr. Thomas Lee, HiPAM Co-Chair and epidemiologist. “It’s at a point where we no longer need to fear it, we just have a healthy respect for COVID.”