The city says it’s sticking with its tiered system of COVID restrictions for now

The city says it’s sticking with its tiered system of COVID restrictions for now
Holden Nakamura, manager at Kalihi Kai Urgent Care in Waikiki, shows a rapid COVID-19 test. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite a push to ease COVID restrictions, Honolulu’s mayor said Friday he’s keeping the existing tiered reopening structure through at least mid-March.

That means Oahu will remain in Tier 2, at least until Feb. 25.

Under Tier 2, bars will remain closed, groups at restaurants and commercial attractions are limited to five and organized youth sports still isn’t allowed.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has been facing growing pressure to ease restrictions and had expressed some support in recent days for rethinking some elements of the city’s tiered reopening strategy. But on Friday, he said there are still a number of unknowns ahead that could push up cases, including the potential for a spike from Super Bowl parties and the long Presidents’ Day weekend.

“We want to be realistic about timetables,” he said, at a news briefing. “I feel really good about the progress we’re making. I think what we’re seeing is the diligence of people.”

Gov. David Ige approved the city’s order sticking with the existing tier rules.

Oahu has been in Tier 2 of the former Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s reopening strategy since mid-October.

The seven-day average for new cases on Oahu stands at 52 with a positivity rate of 2.0%.

Tier 2 means:

  • Restaurants are limited to groups of five.
  • Gyms and Fitness facilities can operate at 25% capacity.
  • Groups of five are allowed at commercial attractions.
  • Bars remain closed and organized sports is not allowed.

Under the plan, in order to move into Tier 3, the seven-day average of total new cases reported on Oahu would need to be between 20 and 49, and the positivity rate between 1% and 2.49%.

However, with no guarantees of any restriction relief, the thread businesses are hanging on by is getting thinner.

“As a restaurant owner, we’re just trying to figure out how are we going to survive in every single month that goes by,” said Hideo Simon, the co-owner of Square Barrels and Heiho House.

“We’ve had just enough hours for the people that stayed in Hawaii and the owners that stayed with us when we reopened,” said Nathan Pulawa, a manager for Giovanni Pastrami in Waikiki.

Andria Tupola, Honolulu city council member representing District 1, said there’s even hope on the horizon with youth sports. She has been working with the mayor to present the governor with guidelines for more opportunities for youth.

“I think moving forward, our goal is to continue to get community consensus around the safety that we were able to draft up together on the Safe Sports Hawaii Guidelines,” she said.

The mayor said the county should be receiving money from the feds to disperse to businesses who need help, but there is no timeline for that. He said they will be prioritizing businesses that have been hurt the most.

This story will be updated.

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