HONOLULU (KHON2) — Officials have said things will return to normal once 70% of the state is vaccinated.
But what does this mean and what happens if the state cannot reach this benchmark?
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The state is doing everything it can to get more vaccines, but vaccine demand has slowed despite the long list of enticing incentives. Officials said Hawaii could still see an increase in cases during the winter in areas with large numbers of unvaccinated people.
Gov. David Ige said life will return to normal when 70% of Hawaii’s population is vaccinated. But what will it look like?
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green said he expects things to look normal.
“People will go back to work, they’ll go back to the normal parts of their lives, they’ll see 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 does.
“Absoutely!” says Baehr. “70% is achievable. Find out what the brave people of Lanai have done. They reached 70%. It is the first island to do so.
But hitting that statewide benchmark won’t be as easy.
“I think we can get there. But it’s not going to be easy. You are absolutely right. The spread of vaccines has slowed down. And it’s getting 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’ll get there in September.”
According to the Department of Health’s vaccine dashboard, 57.5% of Hawaii’s 1.4 million people are currently fully immunized. And 62% of the population has received at least one of its vaccines so far.
About 350,000 people would still not be vaccinated, according to Lieutenant Governor Green, even if the state reached the 70 percent threshold.
Green said small outbreaks in rural communities and prisons will likely be seen this winter when fewer people are vaccinated.
Variants, like the highly transmissible Delta strain, could also impact the condition. Not everyone is convinced that the goal will be achieved.
Honolulu resident and COVID-19 survivor Gabriel Yuso-Altoand said he doesn’t believe Hawaii will achieve herd immunity. Kapolei resident and preschool teacher Maiya Deleon isn’t sure either.
“I would like to reach 70%,” Deleon said. “But, as a local, understanding how other locals see it, I don’t think we would achieve it.”
What happens then?
“If we linger in the mid-60s for a very long time, but we don’t have a lot of people getting the disease, then I think we have to seriously consider opening before 70%,” Green explained.
Green said he would support removing people who cannot get vaccinated from being counted in the statewide vaccination rate.
“We have 216,000 keiki, under the age of 12,” he explained. “And because they’re included in the denominator, the standard is much higher in Hawaii. I’m not going to say if it’s good or bad today, I’m just going to say it’s, it’s a lot more pressure for all adults to be vaccinated to make it happen.
This means that 85% of adults need to be vaccinated to reach the benchmark.
What makes matters even more complicated is that Green said residents will likely see health officials push for everyone who’s been vaccinated to get a booster starting in the winter.
“I think eventually they’ll recommend booster shots probably a year from when you got your shot,” Green said.