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City extends ban on large gatherings, replaces tier system with ‘flexible’ response plan

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 2:24 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 20, 2021 at 10:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city’s ban on large gatherings ― including weddings and funerals ― will be extended through Oct. 19, but that could change if infection rates drop significantly.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced the extension Monday in a news conference, saying that while daily case counts have declined in recent weeks “we’re not out of the fire yet.”

“We are on the right track,” he added, but did not offer any specifics for when rules might be eased.

Right now, gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors or 25 outdoors.

The extension of the ban drew opposition from the Hawaii Events Coalition and Oahu Wedding Association, which are calling on the city to allow larger gatherings that are “professionally-managed.”

The city Monday also announced it was “moving away” from its tiered system of reopening that relied on COVID metrics to determine when restrictions would be put into effect or lifted.

Instead, the city will use a “flexible” response plan that for now includes gathering size and capacity limitations. The city’s Safe Access Oahu also remains in place, requiring customers at restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and other attractions to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.

“While I would like to lift the whole thing, we’ve got a ways to go,” Blangiardi said at the news conference, adding, “I’m convinced with the amount of vaccinations and the way our community is responded to what we’ve asked of them, that we’re going to get there.”

The city is once again pulling permits for large sporting events such as the Hawaiian Longboard Championship, which was scheduled for this weekend in Waikiki.

And organizers for Sunday’s Hui Waa Outrigger Canoe Race say they have not gotten a clear answer from the city if their permitted race is allowed.

However, unpermitted outdoor sports are still allowed as long as spectators follow gathering limits.

And indoor sports are allowed with spectators at 50% capacity.

A city spokesperson says UH games are considered commercial events and may take place without spectators.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green is calling for some leeway on events such as UH football games.

“Well, I definitely think fully-vaxed family members should be able to go to games and see sons, daughters play sports that’s a safe environment and even a larger crowd,” said Green. “If they’re vaccinated or tested within three days that again is fine.”

The gatherings announcement comes as Hawaii continues to grapple with high daily COVID counts, though infections are lower than the unprecedented totals seen in late August and early September.

On Monday, the 14-day average for new cases on Oahu was 334 ― a decline of about 30% from two weeks ago. Meanwhile, some 69% of the island’s population was fully vaccinated.

While cases are trending down, the state remains in the deadliest period of the pandemic. Since Sept. 1, Hawaii has reported 125 COVID deaths. In the last five days, 43 deaths were reported.

Statewide, 308 people are hospitalized with COVID, according to Green.

That’s down about 30% from a peak earlier this month.

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