HONOLULU (KHON2) — Officials said things will go back to normal once 70% of the state is vaccinated.
But what does that mean and what happens if the state can not reach that benchmark?
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The State is pushing hard to get more shots in arms, but demand for the vaccine has slowed down even with the long list of enticing incentives. Officials said Hawaii could still see a surge of cases during winter in areas with a large number of unvaccinated people.
Gov. David Ige said life will return to normal when 70% Hawaii’s population is vaccinated. But what will that look like?
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said he expects things will appear to be normal.
“People will go back to work, they’ll be resuming the normal parts of their lives, seeing friends and family,” he explained.
It also means the end of mask mandates and social distancing. But is it possible? According to Department of Health (DOH) spokesperson Brooks Baehr, it is.
“Absolutely!” Baehr said. “70% is attainable. Check out what the good folks on Lanai have done. They have reached 70%. They’re the first island to do so.”
But reaching that benchmark statewide will not be as easy.
“I think we can get there. But it’s not going to be easy. You’re absolutely right. The uptake in vaccinations has slowed down. And it is harder and harder for us now to go out and administer vaccines in large numbers,” Brooks said. “If we can do 30,000 doses a week, we’re gonna get there sometime in September.”
According to the Department of Health vaccine dashboard, 57.5% of the 1.4 million people in Hawaii are currently fully vaccinated. And 62% of the population has gotten at least one of their shots so far.
About 350,000 people would still be unvaccinated, according to Lt. Gov. Green, even if the state does hit the 70% benchmark.
Green said small outbreaks in rural communities and prisons will likely be seen this winter where fewer people are vaccinated.
Variants, like the highly transmissible Delta strain, could also impact the state. Not everyone is convinced the goal will be reached.
Honolulu resident and COVID-19 survivor Gabriel Yuso-Altoand said he does not think Hawaii will reach herd immunity. Kapolei resident and preschool teacher Maiya Deleon is not sure either.
“I would love to reach 70%,” Deleon said. ” But, as a local, understanding how other locals see it, I don’t think we would reach it.”
So what happens then?
“If we linger in the mid 60s for a very long time, but we don’t have many people catching the disease, I think then we’re going to have to strongly consider opening up before 70%,” Green explained.
Green said he would be in favor of removing people who can not get the vaccine from being counted in the statewide vaccination rate.
“We have 216,000 keiki, under age 12,” he explained. “And because they’re included in the denominator, the standard is much higher in Hawaii. I’m not gonna say whether it’s good or bad today, I’m just gonna say that it’s, it’s a lot more pressure to get everyone who’s an adult vaccinated to get there.”
That means 85% of adults need to get vaccinated to hit the benchmark.
What makes things even more complicated is Green said residents will likely see health officials pushing for everyone that was vaccinated to get a booster shot starting in winter.
“I think ultimately they will recommend booster shots probably a year out from when you had your shot,” Green said.