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Gov. Ige: ‘We need to take further action’ to keep people from gathering as delta variant spreads

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 1:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread across the islands, Gov. David Ige says he’s considering restrictions again, particularly on gatherings.

“We were hoping that the case counts would level off and begin to normalize, but we are seeing exponential growth,” Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in its “Spotlight Hawaii” livestream on Monday.

His comments came as the state continues to report some of its highest case counts since the start of the pandemic. On Monday, the state reported 437 new cases, but over the weekend, Hawaii continued to see cases over 600.

He said the hospitalization are also up sharply. A month ago, about 40 people infected with COVID need to go the the hospital. Today, there are 225 COVID patients in state hospitals, he said.

“Clearly, we’re not going in the right direction and we need to take further action to restrict interaction,” Ige said.

Ige said the cases have been largely spreading through gatherings and the highly contagious delta variant, so the best way to combat it would be through reducing the number of gatherings both indoors and outdoors.

Right now, outdoor gatherings can have up to 75 people. Indoor gatherings are up to 25.

“We want to be smart about how we can be focused on the behavior that is spreading the virus, the behavior that is more risky and that we’re seeing more cases in and that’s what we’re looking at doing,” he said.

An announcement on restrictions could be made before the end of the week, Ige said.

Even if they are narrow, businesses say any new restrictions could hurt Hawaii’s fragile retail and restaurant industries.

“Any type of set back for us is going to be devastating, especially to the small businesses we just can’t afford it any more,” said Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii.

Yamaki said many mom-and-pop stores are behind on their rents. Reducing their capacity or creating stricter social distance requirements will make it harder for them to turn a profit.

“They’re not making the numbers they were in 2019. They’re making about 40 to 60 percent -- if they’re lucky,” she said.

At this time, there will be no changes to Hawaii’s Safe Travels program, the governor said, adding that most of the cases brought into the state are from returning residents.

When asked about his plan to lift all restrictions when the state hits a 70% vaccination rate, Ige said he would have to reevaluate that.

“Delta changes the dynamics, and clearly 70% is not the same 70% we talked about a month ago or two months ago,” he said. “We’ll have to watch the case counts, how many sick are in our hospitals, and what our capacity of our hospitals are.”

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