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Mayor asks state officials to delay in-person learning

The Maui News

Mayor Michael Victorino is asking state officials to delay the return of students to public school classrooms, citing new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing the Delta variant “can spread as easily as chickenpox.”

In a news release Sunday evening, Victorino said he was asking the Department of Education, Department of Health and Gov. David Ige’s administration to delay in-person learning until the impacts of the COVID-19 surge on county healthcare facilities can be assessed.

Most students are scheduled to return to school Tuesday.

On Sunday, 452 new COVID-19 cases were reported statewide, including 66 in Maui County, which is averaging 29.6 cases a day, according to the news release. It said the Department of Health reported the state COVID positivity rate has risen 163 percent over the past two weeks.

“Even though our vaccination rate in Hawaii is fairly good compared to other states, the Neighbor Islands have limited hospitals and critical care facilities,” Victorino said. “Our healthcare facilities are already being challenged by the recent surge of infections, so I believe it is wiser to err on the side of caution.

“Distance learning is not new for Hawaii’s students and teachers, and while it’s not ideal, it’s preferable to a potential surge in Delta pediatric cases. We should pause for a few weeks until classroom instruction begins so we can have a better indication of how this variant will impact our medical facilities. In the meantime, I urge the unvaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible, for their own health and for the protection of our keiki.”

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