Hawai‘i’s Emergency Proclamation Extended, “Still too Soon to Let Our Guard Down”
Governor David Ige is signing an emergency proclamation today related to the state’s COVID-19 emergency response, that effectively extends orders already in place.
Under the extended proclamation:
- There are NO changes to the state’s Safe Travels program.
- There are NO changes to the statewide mask mandate. “We continue to believe that wearing our masks indoors is the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Gov. Ige.
- The proclamation also allows for extensions of expirations of drivers licenses. This is to ensure that those can continue to have drivers license.
- The emergency proclamation will clarify that employers are not required to pay for COVID-19 testing for employees who choose to undergo regular COVID testing instead of vaccinations.
- The emergency proclamation will restore civil service requirements, which were previously suspended, in alignment with federal law. “The suspension serves to ensure that the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations had adequate personnel and resources to respond to the unemployment crisis caused by COVID-19,” said Gov. Ige.
Gov. Ige said that back in late May and early June, the state had hoped that the emergency period would end soon.
“We were doing very well with vaccination, the case counts were stable and dropping, and with the availability of vaccines, we felt that we would be in a good position by the end of summer,” said Gov. Ige.
State Health Director, Dr. Libby Char explained the the Delta peak occurred right before Labor Day. “You can see that now we are trending down–we’re absolutely heading in the right direction; but we’re still far above what the peak was for previous surges. So that’s why we’re asking that people be patient,” she said.
In late August, Delta caused a spike in the cases, with daily case counts exceeding 1,000 new cases at one point, and the seven day average exceeded 900 new cases. “Hospitalizations spiked and our health care facilities were in crisis; and we had over 650 health care professionals from out of state to help us manage the COVID cases that we saw,” said Gov. Ige.
“We took action to protect your health and safety and this has always been our priority,” he said. “Today, the number of cases has been trending lower, and the number of COVID patients in our hospitals continues to fall; however, COVID continues to cause high rates of infection throughout our state. The seven day average exceeds 300.”
Dr. Char said, “We are heading in the right direction, but it’s still too soon to let our guard down.”
“And as the governor noted, we still have 650 health care professionals from the mainland, here to help us care for our patients. Tents remain in front of most of the hospitals’ Emergency Departments to expand capacity and allow for evaluation of patients; and it took many federal, state, and local partners, and a lot of coordination and collaboration to attain a stable supply of oxygen to meet our current needs,” said Dr. Char.
State officials say Hawaiʻi saw the Delta variant COVID cases increase every week for eight weeks. In the last two weeks, the Department of Health investigated 46 clusters totaling nearly 1,300 people, according to the state Department of Health.
“In the month of September, almost 200 of our friends, family, and neighbors died from COVID-19. Many were in their 30s and 40s. Thankfully, infections are trending downward over the past four weeks, and we administered our 2 millionth dose of vaccine this week,” said Dr. Char.
According to the DOH, there are 455,000 people not yet fully vaccinated in the state–representing 32% of the population. State officials say, of those who are eligible for vaccine right now (individuals 12 years and older), there are still 248,000–almost a quarter-million people–not fully vaccinated.
“We have a few weeks to go before we expect to be back at a level we can manage with our current resources and people,” said Dr. Char.
“In Hawaiʻi we cannot expand our hospital capacity by simply driving a few miles or airlifting people. We are isolated and have to be self reliant,” said Gov. Ige. “And so we have always taken special care to ensure that each and everyone of us in our community has access to quality health care services and resources when they need it.”
“With that in mind, we continue to monitor the health care situation in our islands, but we feel that it’s important that we continue and extend the emergency proclamation today,” said Gov. Ige.
“We are all working very hard to learn to live with COVID. If we all remain vigilant–and it’s important that we continue to be vigilant in the fight against COVID–to do the things that we know work. Wear a mask, stay home when we’re sick, keep your children home when they’re sick, wash your hands, and use hand sanitizer. We know that we can have much better holidays as the holiday seasons approach.”