From the governor: Getting vaccinated to reach our goals

Posted on Jun 25, 2021 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main
Gov. Ige, DOH director Dr. Libby Char (center back) and community partners for #HIGotVaccinated.

Gov. Ige, DOH director Dr. Libby Char (center back) and community partners for #HIGotVaccinated.

If ever there’s a time for Hawai‘i to pull together, it’s now. To reach the benchmarks for lifting travel and other restrictions, to help businesses thrive, to get people back to work and seeing family and friends — all of that hinges on more residents getting their COVID-19 vaccinations. The #HIGotVaccinated campaign is reaching into every corner of the state with incentives and access to shots. Meanwhile, more bills became law in the last month to address long-standing inequities, protect our oceans and help people impacted by the pandemic.

Q: Are we close to reaching the benchmarks you’ve set for Hawai‘i residents being fully vaccinated?

A: We are definitely on track to reach our 60 percent vaccination target. The county mayors and I have decided that domestic travelers to Hawai‘i who were fully vaccinated in the U.S. can bypass testing and quarantine starting July 8. Travelers must upload their vaccination record in the state’s Safe Travels program and bring a hard copy with them. We’ve all worked hard to make it easier for residents to return home and for friends, family and visitors to plan their trips. We’re able to reach this milestone because so many in our community have been vaccinated.

Q: What’s the outlook for reaching the 70 percent vaccination rate when all travel and other restrictions will be lifted?

A: Reaching that goal is going to depend on all of us encouraging folks we know, especially young adults and other groups who have yet to be vaccinated. It’s a challenge the White House says many states are facing. We’re seeing COVID-19 clusters of unvaccinated individuals who can spread the disease, so it’s important for more people to be protected. We’re also using the baseline of the state’s whole population because even those who are not eligible to be vaccinated can be infected by the virus and infect others. It affects the health of the whole community and helps determine the point at which we would feel comfortable dropping restrictions.

Q: What should people know about the eviction moratorium, currently set to end Aug. 6 in the latest emergency proclamation?

A: People should be working with their landlords, who will be taking action once the moratorium is lifted. I just signed a bill (HB1376) that provides for mediation and was supported by consumer advocates, the state Judiciary, realtors and others. It gives tenants time to repay overdue rent and avoid eviction, depending on how much they owe. We’re also working with the counties for rent relief programs so more people don’t become homeless.

Q: Why did you make it a priority to sign the package of ocean-related protection bills?

A: Several of those bills were critical to our Sustainable Hawai‘i Initiative from 2016 to effectively manage 30 percent of Hawai‘i’s nearshore waters by 2030. The stewardship fund provided for in HB1019 is based on being able to assess visitor fees at state parks to generate revenue and to put those funds back into park improvements so people can see the connection.

Q: Why is the Intent to Veto list of bills announced June 21 an important part of the process?

A: It gives people a chance before the final July 6 veto deadline to share their thoughts with me. I’m not required to veto every bill on the list, but I can’t veto a bill if it isn’t included. The list reflects concerns about a bill’s legality, practicality of implementation and/or lack of transparency. The state’s economic picture has significantly brightened  since the start of the legislative session. We’ve also learned about some budget bill gaps that need correcting on the use of federal rescue funds.  Also of concern is HB862 involving Hawai‘i Tourism Authority funding, which is on the Intent to Veto list. The public can comment at https://governor.hawaii.gov/contact-us/comments-on-legislation/.

Read more in the July Capitol Connection newsletter.

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