Experts: The face masks are coming off in Hawaii, but the threat of COVID will remain – Hawaii News Now

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – As COVID cases fall and the final mandates come down, top epidemiologists in Hawaii and nationally are worrying that people may think the risk is over.

Their message: It’s not.

For the last two years, East-West Center senior fellow Dr. Tim Brown has followed the trajectory of the pandemic and warns what happens elsewhere eventually makes its way to the islands.

Right now, according to Johns Hopkins University, cases are rising in Europe. The United Kingdom saw a 27% spike in infections just last week.

Hawaii is averaging 140 daily infections, but Brown says many are going undetected.

“I am concerned about the fact that we’ll have this period where we may have a lot of people unmasked and potentially more COVID spreading in the community,” Brown said.

“If we’re still at 140 a day detected cases, that means there’s probably around my guess would be 400-500 cases that are still out and active in the community.”

His concerns come a week before the state drops the indoor mask mandate and he’s worried that many will forget that COVID is still around.

“My sense is that probably about half of our population here will take precautions and will be careful,” Brown said. “I think about half our population will take a ‘let it rip’ attitude and the problem is ‘let it rip’ will basically spread a lot of COVID in the community among that 50% that don’t take precautions.

“The other problem is people have not been keeping up on their vaccines.”

Brown says that once the mask mandate ends, it becomes a matter of personal responsibility to wear a mask in crowded settings or around at-risk people and keep up with boosters.

Currently, just over 55% of the state’s population has received a booster.

The next Department of Health update on Hawaii’s average case count will be released on Wednesday.

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