In announcing new COVID rules, Hawaii County mayor warns island is at ‘tipping point’
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth announced stricter gathering limits Friday, but stopped short of calling for a lockdown.
At Big Island beach parks, small groups enjoyed their Friday at the shoreline. But pavilions were wrapped in yellow tape to discourage gatherings, a major source of COVID spread.
“The (case) numbers are outrageous,” said Big Island resident Jeremy Dutro, Jr.
Dutro says he usually sees big parties in the park, but not on Friday and he’s fine with the new restrictions. “I’m scared to go in the stores ― even with a mask on,” said Dutro.
Hawaii County saw 184 new COVID cases on Friday.
Meanwhile, 78 people with COVID are now hospitalized on the island. That’s an 18% increase over five days, according to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
Twenty of the Big Island’s 24 ICU beds are occupied,16 with COVID patients.
“With an average of 132 cases a day, the Delta variant has undoubtedly swept through our community has begun to inundate our hospitals and healthcare systems,” said Roth.
He added a broad shutdown is possible if the surge gets worse.
“We’ve been having discussions for the last couple of weeks about stricter mandates and a complete shutdown,” said Roth. “We have reached a tipping point.”
The new gathering limit for Hawaii County is 10 people indoors, 10 outdoors.
At beaches and parks, pods of 10 are allowed with 20 feet of separation. But no tents or canopies are allowed and permits for larger gatherings are rescinded.
“Although you are not going to play games right now, we are hoping that you’ll still be able to get your exercise,” said Maurice Messina, director of Hawaii County’s Parks and Recreation department.
Angler Jeremy Lee supports the new restrictions and thinks the county should go even further.
“I used to party a lot before, but since now all this going on, you gotta stay away from all those gatherings,” said Lee. “Better safe than sorry.”
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