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Mayor: Oahu’s ban on large gatherings will likely be allowed to expire Oct. 19

Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 4:15 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 6, 2021 at 5:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said Oahu’s ban on large gatherings will likely be allowed to expire Oct. 19, as long as COVID cases don’t surge again.

The policy prohibits any gatherings larger than 25 people outdoors or 10 indoors.

Gov. David Ige also previously said he planned to make an announcement this week on relaxing the rules. His office said a news conference is tentatively on his schedule for Friday.

Hawaii’s COVID infections and hospitalizations have been on the decline for several weeks.

“These trends continue (and) ... we will suspend the banning of large gatherings and will get back in the business of normalcy even though there’s an overriding emergency proclamation,” said Blangiardi, in a news conference Wednesday.

“It’s been almost miraculous to see the drop in numbers,” he added.

He’s also offering hope for University of Hawaii football fans.

Rather than a UH win against Fresno with no fans at Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex, Blangiardi says the next UH home game on Oct. 23 could be for family and friends.

“Candidly, what I proposed yesterday was per the University of Hawaii ... was 1,000 fans for the New Mexico State game. At least we will take that one. There’s three more home games left,” he said.

Blangiardi said he hopes to see ticket sales for the last two home games against San Diego State on Nov. 6 and Colorado State on Nov. 20. “I think the last two games, hopefully where things are headed, that they’ll be able to sell tickets to,” he said.

On Tuesday, Ige told Hawaii News Now in a one-on-one interview that he hopes to make an announcement this week on gatherings, including allowing fans at University of Hawaii games.

The latest figures from the Hawaii Pandemic Applied Modeling group shows Oahu has seen a steep decline in infections since Sept. 13, when the Oahu Safe Access program was enacted, requiring restaurants and other businesses to require vaccination or negative COVID test.

Thomas Lee, HIPAM co-chair and a University of Hawaii epidemiologist, said the numbers are encouraging. “I’m happy from a public health perspective but also one of continued vigilance,” he said.

Looking ahead, Blangiardi says there is the possibility of a massive event in December.

“Yes, there is there’s a definite possibility of the Honolulu Marathon,” he said. “If we say yes to that, it’ll be a major signal to our community that we’re back.”

The race would likely be much smaller than the usual 30,000 runners since Japanese visitors still face quarantine rules on their return, discouraging them from traveling.

But marathon President and CEO Dr. Jim Barahal says it can be done safely with vaccinations or a negative COVID test within 48 hours. He says in the next four weeks, the New York, Boston and Chicago marathons will be held with more than 100,000 people and over a million spectators.

“I do believe they are safe. If we’re going to be safe then why can’t we do it responsibly here in Honolulu,” said Barahal.

“We’ve been working on this event for a year and a half now. We have a great plan, a safe plan with appropriate precautions,” he added.

Barahal didn’t say specifically how many people Honolulu’s event could have. In 2019, the marathon website says there were more than 33,000 entrants and almost half were from Japan.

Blangiardi did caution that easing restrictions needs approval from Ige.

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