Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Public Officials Plead With Hawai´i to get Vaccinated

By Max Dible
August 9, 2021, 2:51 PM HST
* Updated August 9, 3:04 PM
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Photo courtesy of Office of the Governor

Lieutenant Governor Josh Green is pleading with residents of Hawai´i to get vaccinated, as healthcare resources have grown scarce under the toll of a coronavirus pandemic now surging on the back of the highly transmissible and more severe Delta variant.

Hospital beds across the state are filling up, with 224 patients under care for COVID-19 infection, 214 of whom are unvaccinated. And according to Green, the situation is only going to deteriorate further.

“I just got off a long ER shift with a lot of sick people on the Big Island with COVID,” Green said in an Instagram video message posted early Monday afternoon. “We are going to see more people in the hospital because we have so many more cases.”

The Lieutenant Governor, who is also a practicing physician in Hawai´i, went on to address residents of the state by way of a direct request to help stem the virulent surge.

“My appeal to you is please get vaccinated. I understand differences in ideology, I respect it, but please get vaccinated so that doesn’t happen,” Green said. “I had a guy with a heart attack this weekend on Big Island, and we had no beds to transfer him to for many hours. That’s how serious it is.”

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Hawai´i on Monday also reached the unprecedented tally of 500 new infections daily for the first time since the Department of Health (DOH) began tracking virus figures in March of 2020. Ninety of those cases are showing up on the Big Island every day (the highest average among Neighbor Islands), where the test positivity rate is 8%. Only O´ahu is identifying positive cases at an equal pace.

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According to the most recent DOH figures, 60.8% of state residents are fully vaccinated, while 68.3% have received at least one shot. However, with tourism back in full swing and the return to in-person learning at Hawai´i public schools, the coronavirus is running more rampantly through the local population than it ever has.

“Our hospitals are rapidly reaching capacity, as I witnessed firsthand while on call this weekend,” Green wrote in a Facebook post Monday. “We need to really lower our case counts now through Labor Day, otherwise there will be unnecessary and tragic loss of life.”

The Lieutenant Governor also went on to publicly encourage Governor David Ige to “take immediate action,” mentioning specifically decreasing gathering sizes while assuming a more general stance on the topic of “enhancing vaccination efforts.”

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Green stopped short of suggesting the state revert to distance learning in public education settings, that Hawai´i make any effort to slow the flow of travel to the islands from mainland and international destinations, or that the governor reinstate lockdown orders that closed the doors of local businesses and mandated residents shelter-in-place under the threat of criminal penalty. Those policies were all part of strategies in 2020 that led to considerably lower infection rates across Hawai´i, despite the absence of a viable vaccine at the time.

The Ige administration has blamed the resurgence of the pandemic on a lack of public interest in vaccination against COVID-19, but has also appeared reticent to revert to the unpopular policies that helped keep the virus in check last year.

The governor said expressly one week ago that he did not foresee a scenario in which public schools would again be shut down. However, on Wednesday, Aug. 4, he did issue a mandate stating that any student or adult wishing to participate in school-sponsored sports would be required to vaccinate or sit out the season, save for those who earn religious or medical exemptions.

Ige, in conjunction with County Mayors, also issued a vaccine mandate for all state and county employees. The order, announced on Thursday, Aug. 5, states that those employees must either receive vaccination or submit to once weekly COVID-19 testing, which they will be forced to pay for via their health insurance policies or out-of-pocket should they not procure it at a state-sponsored site.

“Our hospitals are filling up, our ICU beds are at capacity,” Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said last week at a joint press conference with the governor. “(The Delta variant) can affect everyone, including our youth. It’s no longer just the kūpuna, it’s everyone.”

“Enough is enough already,” Roth continued. “Let’s get back to things we love most by getting the vaccine, limiting gatherings, and wearing our masks. The time is now.”

Max Dible
Max Dible is the News Director for both Big Island Now and Kauai Now. He also serves as News Director for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations.
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