HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Starting Thursday, Oahu will begin reopening under a new “tier system,” which means certain businesses and attractions can reopen with limited capacity and gatherings of up to five people will be allowed.
City officials say the new order, based on the tier system, is aimed at strategically responding to increases in new COVID-19 infections. But residents are likely to still find the rules confusing.
Under the new framework, Oahu will be starting at Tier 1 — which allows for a host of nonessential businesses to reopen that had previously been forced closed under the “stay-at-home” order.
Those businesses, though, have capacity and other restrictions in place.
And rules on gatherings vary depending where you are.
“A lot of things are opening up in the first tier,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, in a news conference Tuesday. “But in a very limited away so that we can make sure that we can manage the virus.”
The new order allows:
- Social gatherings of up to five people (who can be unrelated) at parks, beaches and trails;
- Retailers and essential businesses, including big box stores, to operate at 50% capacity;
- Spiritual services, up to 50% capacity;
- Restaurants operating at up to 50% capacity, with no more than five people from the same household per table. Diners will also need to make reservations and provide their contact details.
- Museums, attractions and zoos to reopen, with a 50% capacity for indoor areas;
- Movie theaters can also reopen, but cannot offer food and drinks;
- Bowling alleys can operate with a 50% capacity limit; parties cannot exceed five people;
- Hair salons, barber shops and nail salons to reopen, with restrictions;
- and gyms and fitness facilities to operate outdoors.
Businesses still closed under the order include bars, nightclubs, short-term rentals and helicopter tours. Under the city’s plan, Oahu bars and nightclubs won’t be able to reopen (even with restrictions) until Tier 4 — a level the island may not meet until December under the best case scenario.
“Most likely that’s the case,” Caldwell said, when asked about the timeline for bars and nightclubs.
There is also no mention in the guidelines about when concerts or live theater might be once again allowed. And outdoor organized team sports aren’t given the green light to resume until Tier 4.
Caldwell said the framework is a roadmap for how “we live with this virus” going forward.
Oahu will remain in Tier 1 for at least four consecutive weeks.
From there, restrictions will continue to ease as long as COVID-19 infections meet guidelines.
The framework appears to suggest Oahu wouldn’t reinstitute a full shutdown — closing non-essential businesses, closing parks and beaches and banning all social gatherings — like the one put in place in March and then again last month when infections soared.
“We are going to manage this virus and remain open,” Caldwell said, when asked about tougher restrictions.
But officials stressed that the new tier system relies on a host of factors to be successful, including widespread testing, a robust contact tracing system, and outreach to vulnerable communities.
The new guidelines also come as the state prepares to launch its much-anticipated (and long-delayed) pre-travel testing program for visitors on Oct. 15. The program will allow trans-Pacific travelers to forgo a mandatory quarantine if they arrive with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours.
Public schools are also planning to move toward a blended learning model in October, offering more in-person instruction along with remote learning.
The number of new COVID-19 infections on Oahu has steadily declined under the stay-at-home order, which was put in place four weeks ago when the island was seeing upwards of 300 new cases a day.
But the shutdown also took another heavy toll on businesses, triggering more layoffs and leaving some business owners unsure on whether they would be able to reopen at all.
The mayor said the new tiered framework is meant to strike a balance between safety precautions and helping businesses to stay afloat.
He acknowledged that he went against the advice of his own health experts in allowing restaurants to reopen for dine-in services and not just takeout because of the number of people who work in the industry.
That appears to be a departure from his statements last week, when he stressed that he would lift restrictions “cautiously” and did not want to reopen the economy too quickly and see new cases soar.
This story will be live.