Lt. Gov. Josh Green thinks cases of Covid-19 in the state and in hospitals have reached a point that’s low enough to start easing some restrictions on large events and businesses.
Green called for allowing vaccinated individuals to attend large gatherings like weddings, concerts and University of Hawaii football games as long as they wear masks. He expects changes to rules in the next two weeks that would loosen restrictions on large gatherings, Green said during a segment of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” program on Monday.
“We are rapidly approaching a time where we should return to normal, both socially and economically,” Green said.
At a press conference Friday, Gov. David Ige said he would not set any metrics for when Hawaii restrictions could be lifted.
On Monday, Green, who is running for governor next year, said he is frustrated that there are no clear benchmarks the public can aim for and said he is keeping an eye on the state’s testing positivity rate and hospitalizations to evaluate the state of Covid in Hawaii.
Green said that the state should be in a good position once Covid positivity rates drop below 3%. On Monday, the average positivity rate was 3.5% statewide. Hawaii recorded 195 new cases on Monday with three additional deaths.
To date, 811 people in Hawaii have died from the virus.
There were 178 Covid-positive patients in Hawaii hospitals, down from a peak of more than 470 at the start of September. Green said hospitals have reached a point where capacity is no longer an issue.
He expects the triage tents erected in front of many hospitals to come down in the coming weeks. More than 650 medical personnel who flew to Hawaii to aid with the Covid response are also expected to return home.
Ige pointed to both of those emergency measures ending as a sign that restrictions could ease.
Green said the state needs to put more emphasis on returning the state to normal. One example is UH football games.
UH is still the only Division I NCAA school to not allow any fans to watch games live. Numerous groups and individuals including the UH athletics department, parents of athletes and House Speaker Scott Saiki have put pressure on Ige to allow at least some groups to attend football games.
Ige has said that while he is supportive of having fans attend UH games, he would not allow that to happen because he worries that football games and large events like them could lead to a superspreader incident of Covid cases.
“It’s not just football,” Green said. “It’s a process of getting back to normal. If you can’t do some of the normal things when you’ve sacrificed, you don’t feel like people are listening to you.”
Green said he and his team have already written a policy that would allow large events like concerts to begin operating again as long as attendees are vaccinated and wear masks.
The lieutenant governor expects the state will be implementing policies like that and lifting some restrictions in two to three weeks. The way Green sees it, easing restrictions on large events could help return Hawaii back to normal.
“We have not put enough emphasis on a gradual return to normalcy,” he said. “You can’t just flip a switch and say ‘OK, everybody can celebrate Christmas’ and there’s no restrictions. We should go in smaller bite-sized increments that are safe.”
If normal activities don’t resume, Green worries that citizens will start losing faith in government.
“And I don’t want people to lose faith. Instead, I want them to celebrate the end of this pandemic. Not think they were burdened by it in the endgame,” he said.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell