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As US cases drop, Hawaii is lone remaining state with indoor mask mandate: Latest COVID-19 updates

Forty-nine states have announced plans to drop their indoor mask mandates as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations steadily decline across the country. The only holdout remains Hawaii.  

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The island state has taken strong precautions against coronavirus from the beginning of the pandemic, and is still requiring out-of-state American travelers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to avoid a mandatory quarantine.

Over 75% of Hawaiians have received two doses of a COVID vaccine – 10% higher than the national rate – according to the Hawaii Department of Health, and coronavirus cases have dropped by a whopping 64% between Feb. 5 and Feb. 18.

Hawaii’s rapid drop in COVID cases mirrors nationwide statistics: Reported U.S. cases on Saturday barely exceeded 100,000, a sharp downturn from around 800,850 five weeks ago, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Despite encouraging COVID case trends, Hawaii has not yet followed in the footsteps of the country’s other states. Gov. David Ige told ABC 4, a local TV station, on Thursday that he’s working with the state’s health department to “determine when the time is right” for Hawaii to lift its indoor mask mandate.

“Hawaii ranks second (to last) in the nation when it comes to COVID deaths, in part because of the indoor mask requirement and other measures that have proven successful in protecting our community from this potentially deadly virus,” Ige said in a statement to the news station. “We base our decisions on science, with the health and safety of our community as the top priority.”

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Also in the news: 

►Enforcement of New York’s COVID-19 booster shot mandate for medical workers, which was set to take effect Monday, will be delayed at least three months amid concerns it would trigger staffing shortages, state officials said.

►Queen Elizabeth II has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild cold-like symptoms, Buckingham Palace announced Sunday.

►A group of American truck drivers protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates, named the People’s Convoy, has said it will begin a cross-country protest on Feb. 23 beginning in California and ending in Washington, D.C. 

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 78.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 935,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 424 million cases and over 5.8 million deaths. More than 214 million Americans – 64.7% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘 What we’re reading: How bad is it to be in ICU with COVID-19? It’s far more miserable than people can imagine, experts tell USA TODAY. Read the full story.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Experts say delay in COVID vaccines for children was the right thing to do

Many parents of young children were disappointed when the Food and Drug Administration decided this month to postpone consideration of COVID-19 vaccines for kids under 5. 

Experts say the decision was the right one. The FDA won’t have enough data until the spring to judge whether a vaccine is safe and effective for young children, a half-dozen public health, infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists told USA TODAY. 

But parent activists say the move made them question the agency’s sincerity in providing shots for the youngest kids, wonder whether unreleased data was hiding anything, and yearn even more for the day they can stop worrying about the health of their children and families.

“I think people are really forgetting the kids here,” said Fatima Khan, cofounder of Protect Their Future, an advocacy group promoting COVID-19 vaccination for children. “This is impacting our kids and how people can live their daily lives.”

Vaccines and medications are typically tested on adults first, then older children and then, when it’s clearly safe, on younger ones, which is why there has been such a lag since adult vaccinations began.

– Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

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