From the governor: Vaccinations more important than ever

Posted on Jul 29, 2021 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main

We’re not out of the woods yet. Just when we thought we could relax our guard, the new Delta variant of COVID-19 has led to a spike in cases and made the push for vaccinations even more urgent. State, county and community partners can only do so much. It’s up to all of us to deliver the message that the safety of everyone — especially our keiki — depends on people getting their shots. That’s when more restrictions can be lifted and life can begin to feel “normal” again.

Gov. Ige signs bills to promote electric vehicle adoption in support of the state’s clean energy goals.

Gov. Ige signs bills to promote electric vehicle adoption in support of the state’s clean energy goals. (Photo: Blue Planet Foundation)

Q: Why is reaching the 70% vaccination target so important? When are we hoping to reach it?

A: Our state health officials believe that 70 percent should be high enough that the spread of the disease is limited. We continue to see people who are not vaccinated gathering in groups, then getting sick with COVID. We’re trying to get enough people to be protected against the virus so it doesn’t continue to circulate and we don’t see a spike in cases. If we can maintain the vaccination rate at more than 16,000 doses per week, we can reach our target in the fall.

Q: Why are we maintaining the indoor mask mandate when other states have lifted it?

A: The Delta variant is highly transmissible and is driving a surge in cases across the country and here in Hawaiʻi — especially among younger people. We know that mask wearing is one of the most effective public health measures we can take when we don’t know who’s vaccinated and who’s not. Some states that rushed to drop their mask mandates have had to reinstate them because of the spike in cases. I don’t want to have to step back once we move forward to loosen restrictions.

Q: With schools reopening, are you confident we can keep students safe for in-person learning?

A: Yes, we’ve been successful in reducing transmission on campuses with mitigation measures and a “layered” approach. It means keeping children home if they’re sick, wearing masks indoors, sanitizing classrooms and using outdoor settings when possible. We can also use cohorting strategies to limit cross-campus interaction. We’ve all gotten better at what we can do to reduce the spread of the virus, and students age 12 and up are now eligible to be vaccinated.

Q: Given the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority funding changes, what tools do we have to handle the influx of visitors?

A: We’re still committed to HTA’s Destination Management Action Plans that identify “friction points” in each community and what could be done. The problem is, even if we identify solutions that the state, county and community can agree on, the question is how to fund them. Without HTA’s dedicated funding, it means going back to the Legislature to get things approved before we can take action. Hāʻena State Park on Kaua‘i is one successful example of how we worked with the community to manage parking, traffic and permitting and provide cultural activities. Also, we can’t limit the number of visitors coming through our airports, but we can identify illegal vacation rentals and support HTA and community efforts to manage overtourism.

Q: What is being done to help tenants and landlords once the eviction moratorium expires on Aug. 6?

A: Our office is working with legislators, consumer advocates and service providers to make sure landlords and tenants know their options for mediation under HB1376 (Act 57). Renters will have more time to seek assistance and to work out agreements to avoid eviction. People who are still struggling can also apply for rent relief through county programs.

Dear Governor Ige . . .

(messages from the Web)

Thank you, Governor Ige, for keeping the indoor mask mandate in place. You’re saving lives!     A Hilo doctor

I am a mom of two young kids who are still too young to get vaccinated. So please know that your decision to keep restrictions in place until 70% of the TOTAL Hawaiʻi population is vaccinated is supported by so many of us. We may not be as vocal as those in opposition, however, which is why I wanted to be sure and email my gratitude.   — An Oʻahu mom

Read more in the August Capitol Connection newsletter.

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