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Hawaiʻi turns a corner in its public health response to the pandemic

Office of Gov. David Ige
Hawaiʻi Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char speaks at a press conference on April 27, 2022.

Hawaiʻi has turned a corner in its public health response to the pandemic. Gov. David Ige and key health officials announced Wednesday that Hawaiʻi is moving from “emergency response” to “public health management.”

Ige said Hawaiʻi will handle COVID-19 similarly to how it copes with other diseases. At the press conference, Hawaiʻi Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char said the new strategy mirrors the national pandemic response plan.

"We still have plenty of vaccination available and it has already moved from these large vaccination centers to pharmacies, health centers, health care providers and whatnot," Char said. "We encourage people to go get their vaccines, and make sure you get that first booster shot. That's really, really important."

Keith Hayashi, interim superintendent for Hawaiʻi public schools, also addressed concerns as students near the end of the school year with in-person events such as prom and graduations.

"We want to finish the school year strong. We have less than a month to go. Part of that effort includes keeping universal indoor masking in place for the remaining four weeks of the school year," Hayashi said.

Under the Department of Health's guidance, the indoor mask mandate means students do not have to quarantine if exposed to COVID at school.

"This major shift in quarantine guidance aligns with our ongoing priority of maintaining in-person learning for our students," Hayashi said at the press conference. "Graduation ceremonies are coming up in the next few weeks. We want to be sure that our students can celebrate the special occasion that they deserve, but it has to be done safely."

Health and public officials are still discussing COVID rules for summer school and the next school year, Hayashi said.

Go to hawaiicovid19.com for more COVID-19 information.

This segment aired on The Conversation on April 28, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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