LIHU‘E — If the state hits a vaccination rate of 70%, Kaua‘i will lose its tier system and mandated restrictions, according to the county’s latest tier chart from Mayor Derek Kawakami.
The county got approval Tuesday from Gov. David Ige for an update to the tier chart that hinges on state vaccination rates, case counts and positivity rates.
While about 1.4 million dosages of COVID-19 vaccines have been dolled out, the state is just under 50% of residents being fully inoculated, Ige reported.
Kaua‘i’s Tier 5 would go into effect when 60% of state residents have been fully vaccinated, the county’s seven-day daily average case count is less than three and has a test positivity rate below 1%. Here, the maximum group size would rise to 25 indoor and 75 outdoor. For indoor businesses and activities, the county sets a 75% capacity.
For reference, Tier 4, where the county currently stands, has an indoor limit of 10 and a 25-person outdoor limit in social gatherings. For most activities and businesses, there is a 50% indoor capacity.
Tier 6, the last rung on the ladder, dissolves the chart system entirely.
Kaua‘i leads the state in vaccination rate, with 48% of the estimated 71,000 population fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Summary. This is about on par with the state’s rate of 49%, and the national rate of 50%.
State DOH Kaua‘i District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman said choosing the state’s vaccination rate over the county’s has to do with how “closely connected” the counties are.
“Our counties are so closely connected that from a public-health perspective, it makes the most sense to use the statewide vaccine average, particularly with the increase in inter-island travel,” Berreman said. “County by county differences in vaccination rates are decreasing, and we foresee this model being used by other counties to continue to loosen restrictions.”
The county has been in discussion with the state and neighboring officials on using vaccine rates as a metric to loosen restrictions, a county spokesperson said Tuesday.
“We know that vaccines are the quickest way for us to move forward,” Kawakami said in a press release.
“Our island took early, firm actions at the start of this pandemic, which helped us build a robust vaccine program.”
This is the third time Kawakami has asked to revise the tier chart the administration first requested back in October 2020.
Tuesday, Ige also amended the state’s mask mandate to allow all individuals to go maskless outside, whether vaccinated or not.
“However, we do strongly encourage that when they’re outside in large groups to continue to wear a mask,” Ige said.
“The mask mandate is not changing indoors.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that vaccinated individuals could stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. CDC guidance advised masking-up in crowded indoor settings and on public transportation.
Ige also announced that, beginning June 1, restrictions on ocean-sports competitions, including surfing, swimming and outrigger canoe paddling, will be lifted. State and county permits will be issued per health and safety codes, Ige said.
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz had asked Ige to lift the rules to allow surf competitions and regattas earlier this month.
“Surfing and outrigger canoe paddling are so much more than sports. They are a part of our culture and a way of life. I look forward to seeing our kids out in the water competing in surf contests and regattas again,” Schatz said in a statement Tuesday.
Additionally, if vaccination rates continue to rise and case counts remain low, changes to the state’s Safe Travels program could come in June, Ige said.
“The next step would be a quarantine exception for trans-Pacific travelers vaccinated in Hawai‘i,” Ige said.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.