In dropping Safe Access Oahu, mayor says it’s time to start ‘living with this disease’
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi confirmed plans Monday to drop the Safe Access Oahu program, telling residents it’s time to drop restrictions and start living with COVID.
“On March 5, the last restriction we’ve had in place, Safe Access Oahu, will sunset,” he said, at a news conference. “COVID’s not over, but we’re gonna go forward in living with this disease and we’ll try to act as responsibly as we can as a city organization, putting our health and welfare of our people first.”
Blangiardi previously said he would allow Safe Access to expire.
The program went into effect in September, and requires patrons to eateries, bars, gyms and other establishments to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within the last 48 hours.
The end of Safe Access Oahu comes as most states ease or do away with COVID restrictions.
Blangiardi says this move is possible due to Oahu’s 80% vaccination rate and low hospitalizations.
”That was the one thing we were concerned about over the last several months,” he said.
“I said that throughout various press conferences we’re gonna focus on the hospital metrics and fortunately, we were able to get through that, get through that well and we’re in good shape. Everybody should feel really good and let’s get on with our lives.”
Maui County has already dropped its vaccine-or-test mandate for eateries and bars. And on Monday, Hawaii County also announced its restrictions on gatherings would go away.
Even with Monday’s announcement, Blangiardi adds that private businesses are free to implement their own COVID-guidelines.
For now, the city will continue to operate its free-testing sites but with reduced hours. And isolation quarantine facilities in Aiea and West Loch will remain open until the end of march.
Meanwhile, the state’s mask mandate remains in place. The governor said he had no plans to drop it for now, despite new guidance from the CDC.
Blangiardi said he expects getting rid of masks will be a “gradual” transition.
“If anything, COVID has brought out a lot of fear in people. I want to stay very sensitive to that fear,” he said. “So I think it’s going to be incumbent on any business to keep their patrons comfortable and to make that call as to whether or not they think that’s the responsible thing to do.”
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