Events with up to 1,000 people will be allowed on Oahu under new rules that reflect drop in infections
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Professionally-managed events with up to 1,000 people will be allowed on Oahu starting this month under rules that will also require all attendees to be vaccinated and masked, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced Friday.
Blangiardi acknowledged that while the restrictions are being eased, they are far from a return to normal ― in what he called a recognition government is interested in taking a slow, cautious approach after getting through a Delta-driven surge and the deadliest month of the pandemic in September.
“I think our caution right now ― and maybe perhaps, let’s just say it, we’re being overly cautious, so that we can start this ― has a lot to do with what we just experienced over the last 60 days,” Blangiardi said, at a news conference on the new gathering rules. “Do you think I want to watch a football game with a mask on? No, nobody wants to do that. But we want to move forward.”
Gov. David Ige said the managed event restrictions are being eased because of the significant decline of COVID infections and hospitalizations in recent weeks and the ongoing progress the state has made in boosting its vaccination rate. As of Friday, the seven-day daily average for new cases in Hawaii stands at 201 while 69.3% of the population is now fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate on Oahu is 72%.
The governor said while large events are not allowed, residents must still take precautions.
“The pandemic is far from finished,” he said. “This is not an all clear signal.”
Under the new rules, which only apply to Oahu:
- Outdoor seated events ― like University of Hawaii football games ― can be held starting Wednesday with up to 1,000 attendees (but no more than 50% of a venue’s capacity).
- Indoor seated entertainment events can be held starting Oct. 20 with up to 500 attendees.
- And outdoor “interactive events,” such as weddings or funerals, can also be held starting Oct. 20 with up to 150 people. Indoors weddings must still be limited to no more than 10 people.
All three types of events will require attendees to be vaccinated and masked.
“Masked mingling” will be allowed at outdoor interactive events, and food and beverages can be served at those venues, too.
Social distancing will be required at larger events and only water can be made available.
Additionally, everyone who is working at the events must comply with Safe Access Oahu protocols, which means they must either be vaccinated or present proof of a negative COVID test.
Event organizers will also have to submit mitigation plans to the city.
All social gatherings on Oahu that aren’t professionally planned will still have to follow strict size limits: No more than 25 people will be allowed to gather outdoors and no more than 10 indoors.
“We want to be as safe as we possibly can,” Blangiardi said. “All we’re asking right now on the heels of what we just lived through ... it was very real, it was very threatening and we’re trying to get past that.”
The city banned all large gatherings in August amid an unprecedented surge in COVID cases that threatened to overwhelm the state’s health care system.
But in recent weeks, as new cases and hospitalizations have fallen, calls to lift the restrictions have grown. On Thursday, event organizers rallied outside the state Capitol building to call on government to relax the rules, saying large events can be safe if precautions are taken.
Hilton Raethel, president of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said he does not anticipate a rollback of restrictions.
“We have a reasonably high level of confidence that we are through the worst of the pandemic and the delta surge,” he said.
Event organizers, meanwhile, said the new restrictions are a step in the right direction ― and a way to help keep them afloat and their employees on the job.
The governor said that there are plans in the works to allow larger gatherings on the Neighbor Islands and he anticipated making announcements on those soon.
Additionally on Friday, Blangiardi said road races and triathlons are allowed starting Wednesday with up to 500 people, as long as staggered starts with groups of 25 or fewer are maintained. And under a new order, bars are allowed to serve alcohol through midnight rather than stopping service at 10 p.m.
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