Hope for eager UH football fans: Ige says he’s looking to ease some COVID rules soon

While fans were barred from UH games, tourists were allowed to gather for a large lu'au in Waikiki. That didn't sit well with the community.
Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 5:56 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 5, 2021 at 5:57 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The energizing roar of University of Hawaii football fans has been silenced for 651 days.

The Hawaii Bowl ― on Christmas Eve 2019 ― was the last time fans were able to cheer on their Rainbow Warriors in person.

But as COVID cases drop in Hawaii, the governor is offering fans some hope.

In a one-on-one interview with Hawaii News Now on Tuesday, Gov. David Ige said he’s planning a slow return for UH spectators. He said he hopes to make an announcement with the four county mayors about easing rules by Friday.

Ige met with Honolulu Mayor Blangiardi on Tuesday afternoon. Up for discussion was fans at UH sporting events along with rules for gatherings, large events, weddings and welcoming back tourists.

Ige, a UH graduate, has faced tremendous backlash about his decision to ban UH fans from the stands as video of a luau at Hilton Hawaiian Village got people steaming.

He does say though that some of those restrictions could be relaxed a little in the coming weeks.

But the governor says managed events are safer.

What’s so dangerous about a smaller group of masked, vaccinated fans at Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex?

“We are working to look at what would be a systemic way to relax restrictions so that we can have activities return to normal,” said Ige. “We made tremendous progress over the last week.”

After this past weekend’s win against Fresno State with no fans, the next home game against New Mexico State will be on Oct. 23. UH leaders have told Ige they need one week to plan for fans.

“I think things that we’ve talked about is whether it’s all vaccinated or a vaccination and testing kind of protocol,” said Ige.

The Manoa stadium has 9,000 seats and Ige says a comeback could include roughly 1,000 people.

“We’ve talked about the areas of concern that we would have: risky behavior, of how people enter the stadium, whether there would be food and drink allowed, how people exit the stadium, all of those kind of activities.”

Asked whether he would attend the first in-person game, Ige said he “wouldn’t want to take away a seat from somebody else so I think that depends on how we structure the event.”

Ige says an announcement would be broad and could impact large gatherings, weddings, events and tourism.

The travel industry has said it wants two weeks notice before the governor says visitors are welcome again. He said details on inviting tourists back would be part of his announcement this week.

The governor sat down with Hawaii News Now on Tuesday to discuss his decision to extend COVID rules for 60 more days and continues his ban on fans at UH games.

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