Gov. David Ige Friday announced an extension of the state’s Covid-19 emergency proclamation for an additional 60 days, keeping in place the Safe Travels Program for screening passengers arriving in Hawaii and the statewide mask mandate.

He also clarified that employers are not required to pay for Covid-19 testing for workers who choose not to get vaccinated and that drivers can continue to use licenses that expired during the pandemic.

The governor attributed the extension to the delta variant, which he said “changed that equation.” He said that no one variable will determine when the state will lift restrictions.

“The response I got back from the professionals is that they could not see a single metric that would be appropriate to trigger action to either restrict or expand or release restrictions,” he said.

Governor David Ige announces the new Hawaii Smart Health Card that will go live on friday.
Governor David Ige announced the extension of the Covid-19 emergency proclamation on Friday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

The last Covid-related emergency proclamation on Aug. 5 required all state and county workers to report whether they have been vaccinated to their employers and provide proof of vaccination.

The latest proclamation continues to allow state boards and commissions to meet virtually, using interactive conference technology, and adds that they must provide the public the option to testify in the same medium.

While nearly 68% of the total population is fully vaccinated, Ige said that he had to revise his goal to lift statewide restrictions and testing requirements after reaching 70%, noting the far more contagious delta variant raises the bar.

According to the latest variant report published Thursday, 98% of the variants circulating in the state are the delta strain.

Department of Health director Libby Char said that the state’s infection rate is trending downward. However, she asked people to be patient.

“We’re absolutely heading in the right direction, but we’re still far above what the peak was for previous surges,” Char said.

Currently, 182 people are hospitalized for Covid-19 and the daily average case count is 301. According to the latest cluster report, major spreading events, exceeding 300 positive cases, were tracked in correctional facilities on Oahu and Hawaii island, and the department reported over 25 clusters in workplace settings across the islands.

While there is no clear indication on when larger gatherings and events can resume, the governor said that he will continue to talk with various sectors about re-opening “at the appropriate time.”

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