HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Professionally organized events with up to 1,000 people are allowed on Oahu starting this month according to rules that also require all participants to be vaccinated and masked, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced on Friday.
Blangiardi acknowledged that while restrictions will be relaxed, they are far from returning to normal in September.
“I think our caution right now, and maybe let’s just say we are too cautious to start with, has a lot to do with what we have just been through over the past 60 days,” said Blangiardi, on one Press conference on the new assembly rules. “Do you think I want to see a football match wearing a mask? No, nobody wants that. But we want to move forward. “
Governor David Ige said restrictions on managed events are being eased due to the significant drop in COVID infections and hospital stays in recent weeks and the state’s continued progress in increasing its vaccination rate. As of Friday, the seven-day daily average for new cases in Hawaii is 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 over,” he said. “That is not a clear signal.”
According to the new rules that only apply to Oahu:
- Outdoor seating events, such as the University of Hawaii soccer games, can host up to 1,000 participants (but not more than 50% of the capacity of a venue) starting Wednesday.
- Seated indoor entertainment events can take place starting October 20 with up to 500 participants.
- And “interactive events” in the open air, such as weddings or funerals, can be held from October 20 with up to 150 people. Indoor weddings may still be limited to no more than 10 people.
All three types of events require participants to be vaccinated and masked.
“Masked mixing” is allowed at interactive outdoor events, and food and drink can also be served in these locations.
At larger events, social distancing is required and only water can be provided.
Additionally, everyone working on the events must follow Safe Access Oahu’s protocols, which means they must either be vaccinated or have a negative COVID test.
Event organizers must also submit mitigation plans to the city.
All social gatherings on Oahu that are not professionally planned must still adhere to strict size restrictions: no more than 25 people can gather outdoors and no more than 10 indoors.
“We want to be as safe as possible,” said Blangiardi. “Everything we’re asking right now, beyond what we’ve just been through … it was very real, it was very threatening and we’re trying to get over it.”
The city banned all large gatherings in August amid an unprecedented spike in COVID cases that threatened to overwhelm the state’s healthcare system.
But in the past few weeks, as new cases and hospitalizations have declined, calls for restrictions to be lifted have grown. Event organizers gathered outside the state Capitol on Thursday to urge the government to relax the rules, saying that major events can be safe if precautions are taken.
Hilton Raethel, president of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said he did not anticipate a rollback: “We have a relatively high level of confidence that we have survived the worst of the pandemic and surge in the delta.”
Organizers said the new restrictions were a step in the right direction – and a way to keep them afloat and keep their employees at work.
Beckie Stocchetti, Executive Director of the Hawaii International Film Festival,
Meanwhile, the governor said plans are in the works to allow larger gatherings in the neighboring islands and he expects these to be announced soon.
Additionally, Blangiardi said Friday that street races and triathlons will be allowed with up to 500 people starting Wednesday, as long as staggered starts with groups of 25 or fewer are maintained. And according to a new regulation, bars are allowed to serve alcohol until midnight instead of closing at 10 p.m.
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