The Latest: 1 Death, 75 New Cases; Ige: Vaccine 'Demand Far Exceeds Supply'

Jan 20, 2021

Updated 1/20/21, 11:58 a.m.

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines in Hawaii, demand is running far ahead of supply. That word came Tuesday from top state officials -- including Governor David Ige.

"We do know that as we vaccinate more of our community members, we also will be able to begin to revive our economy and get people back to work," Ige said. "However, we are contrained by the number of vaccines that are allocarted to the state of Hawaii by the federal government."

Lt. Governor Josh Green said that last week, Hawaii received nearly 59,000 doses of the vaccine. But this week that number is down to fewer than 33,000. And only 19,000 of those are for initial doses -- the rest are for second doses of vaccines that were given several weeks ago.

"We don't know from week to week exactly how much we're going to receive," said Dr. Libby Char, state health director. "We don't know until about Thursday what we get for the following week. And it's made it really difficult and challenging to plan ahead."

State officials say a more predictable supply would lead to a broader distribution of vaccinations. For example, they say Hawaii Pacific Health could double the amount of vaccinations it is giving, if there were enough doses.

Although the state is still prioritizing Phase 1A and 1B candidates, who are those 75 and older, kupuna in long-term care facilities and qualifying essential workers -- some facilities are allowing caregivers to be vaccinated as well.

The state hopes to finish vaccinating that group by the end of February.

Meanwhile, Green said some of the case count numbers have shown improvement since earlier this month. He said that as of January 6, the seven-day average daily count of new cases of COVID-19 was 139, with a positivity rate of 3.48% and 105 hospitalized patients.

Ige urged understanding about the challenges the state is facing as the vaccine program continues.

"We are in a situation where demand far exceeds supply, and so I want to encourage everyone to be patient as the vaccine rolls out."

-- HPR's Ashley Mizuo and Bill Dorman

Where we stand

The state Department of Health reported 75 new cases and one new fatalities on Wednesday.

According to the state's numbers, Oʻahu had 49, Maui 14, Hawaiʻi Island 4, Kauaʻi 1, and Lanai and Molokaʻi had no new cases. 6 residents were diagnosed out of state.

The latest state count brings the Oʻahu total to 20,067, Hawaiʻi County 2,092, Maui 1,501, Kauaʻi 176, Lanai 106, and Molokaʻi 25. The number of out-of-state cases totals 653.

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 24,620 cases. The death toll stands at 325.

Alm seeks to dismiss charges against U.S. Surgeon General

Honolulu's Department of the Prosecutor Attorney is seeking to dismiss charges against U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and his aide, Dennis Anderson-Villaluz, for allegedly violating the city's emergency order in August 2020.

Adams and Anderson-Villaluz traveled to Hawaii last August to assist the state with its COVID-19 surge testing efforts. Both allegedly entered Kualoa Regiona Park to take photos while the park was closed under Mayor Kirk Caldwell's "Act Now Honolulu - No Social Gatherings" emergency order.

Violating an emergency order is a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $5,000 and a year in prison.

In a released statement, Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said he determined that further prosecution of Adams and his aide would not achieve the department's goal of doing justice.

"This office's resources are better spent prosecuting other offenses, including serious violations of the Mayor's emergency orders that pose a real threat to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic," Alm said.

The city's motion to dismiss the charges against Adams and Anderson-Villaluz is pending before the First Circuit Court.

-- HPR's Casey Harlow