Hawaii County mayor proposes to increase indoor gathering sizes with vaccination threshold

Published: May. 27, 2021 at 7:07 PM HST|Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 8:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After mass vaccination events at the Edith Kanakaole Stadium in Hilo, Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said he thinks it’s safe to have larger gatherings.

So he’s proposed a solution that, if approved, would be the first of its kind in the state.

He told Hawaii News Now on Thursday that he’s asked Gov. David Ige to increase the size of indoor gatherings on Hawaii Island from 10 to 25 people as long as a host or business can verify that 75% of the attendees have been vaccinated.

Roth is hoping for approval by Friday.

“We feel that the more people are vaccinated, the better off we are and the safer it’s going to be for everyone,” he said.

Hilo businesses said they support a vaccine threshold for larger indoor gatherings.

“It’s a good ruling to change especially with the high vaccinations and people traveling nowadays,” said Colin Nakagawa, president of Seaside Restaurant and Aqua Farm.

Miles Yoshioka, executive director of Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, said he’s “all for it.”

“A vaccine pass will enable businesses to hold larger groups as well as venues to hold larger groups, but it does place the responsibility on the organizer,” he said.

The county is also asking to increase outdoor gatherings from 25 to 75 people without a vaccine threshold.

On Thursday, only six COVID cases were reported on Hawaii Island.

The state Department of Health reported 54% of the total population of Hawaii Island had one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 43% are fully vaccinated.

“We are getting to the end of this race. We don’t want to trip, but we do want to sprint to the finish line,” said Roth.

Meanwhile, large gatherings can already get an exemption through Civil Defense when planners prove their protocols.

Roth said the Honu — the half Ironman on the Kohala Coast slated for June 5 — will be the largest event for Hawaii Island since the pandemic, bringing in more than 1,000 people.

HNN asked the mayor how this event is allowed to happen.

“We feel that the protocols that are in place make it safe,” Roth responded.

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