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In effort to combat COVID surge in Hawaii, Gov. Ige reinstates restrictions on gatherings

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 1:17 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 10, 2021 at 3:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In an effort to combat a surge in COVID-19 cases and curb the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, Gov. David Ige on Tuesday announced a return to restrictions on gatherings.

“The delta variant has truly changed the COVID-19 pandemic here in the islands,” Ige said, in a news conference. “We have seen increased transmission and we must take action in order that our health system is not overwhelmed.”

The following restrictions will take effect immediately:

  • Social gatherings will be capped at 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors
  • For all high-risk activities — including bars, restaurants, gyms and social establishments — indoor capacity is set at 50%
    • Patrons must remain seated in parties with at least 6 feet of distance between groups
    • Mingling will not be allowed and masks must be worn at all times except when eating or drinking
  • Professional events must comply with all state and county orders. Those with more than 50 people will need to notify and consult with county officials.

His press conference comes as the state continues to report some of its highest case counts since the start of the pandemic. On Tuesday, the state reported 436 new COVID-19 cases. But over the weekend, Hawaii continued to see cases over 600.

[READ MORE: Social gatherings limited, but ‘professionally organized’ events can still happen]

“We need to minimize person-to-person contact in order to reduce transmission,” Ige said, adding that the virus has been spreading largely due to people gathering when they are sick.

Previously, outdoor gatherings of up to 75 people were allowed, while indoor gatherings were at 25.

County mayors were also on board with the new restrictions — and said it’s imperative that people continue to get vaccinated and wear their masks.

“We’re not where we were just a couple weeks ago,” Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said. “We’re in a very different place. It’s very aggressive and everybody needs to wake up, pay attention and do the responsible thing and please get vaccinated.”

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said the situation is personal for him after he suffered a heart attack earlier this year. The fact that ICUs are at full capacity makes it dangerous not only for COVID patients, but non-COVID patients, he said.

“What we’re seeing now with our hospitals is unacceptable,” Roth said. “All of our hospitals are at capacity. Some of our hospitals are over capacity, so these are steps that have to be taken to keep our community safe and healthy.”

Despite concerns related to travel, Ige said there would be no changes to the state’s Safe Travels program at this time.

“We are evaluating the Safe Travels program, but we would note that the number of cases from visitors is relatively low, it’s 1 or 2%,” Ige said, adding that the bulk of travel-related cases are returning residents.

Ige also noted that with more than 200 COVID-19 patients in the hospital on Tuesday, most of them were unvaccinated individuals, stressing once again the importance of vaccinations.

He also said that virtually every hospital facility in the state was implementing surge plans and he is projecting contracting up to 500 healthcare professionals from the mainland to deal with the surge.

“We anticipate that it would be four to six weeks to see a significant reduction in the case counts that we are seeing,” Ige said. “We are hopeful that if people do their part and they maintain physical distancing, we can have the case counts drop more quickly than that, but clearly it would be up to all of us as a community to successfully fight against the transmission of COVID-19.”

This story will be updated.

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