As COVID cases drop, some wonder when Hawaii’s gathering restrictions will be eased

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — As the state begins to rebound from the delta surge, some industries have wondered when they will be able to resume business as usual.

Since Wednesday, Aug. 25, social gatherings on Oahu have been scaled back to only 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, following an alarming rise in COVID cases linked to community spread.

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On Monday, Sept. 20, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi extended the suspension of large gatherings an additional 28 days until Tuesday, Oct. 19. During this time, the state was also continued to report about 400 daily cases and COVID hospitalizations were near 300.

Large weddings, funerals, concerts and sporting events are among the list of gatherings that remain suspended under the Safe Oahu Response Plan.

On Sept. 20, Mayor Blangiardi said hospitalization numbers would be part of the reevaluation of gathering rules, and he said he would like to see numbers drop well below 200 coronavirus cases.

As of Sunday, Oct. 3, there were 176 COVID patients hospitalized.

“That’s 61% off of our peak, which is very good,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green. “And by the 19th, when Mayor Blangiardi is able to make that distinction, we will likely be 80% off of peak.”

As of Sunday, there were 4,460 active COVID cases statewide. Green believes it is time to restore some normalcy.

“The truth is if people are vaccinated and they’re masked, gatherings are not a risk,” Green said. “So as long as they keep a standard that approximates that, and our hospitals have lots of space, which they do now and they will in two weeks, we need to begin to restore normalcy for our people.”

The wedding industry has been hit hard by the gathering restrictions, with no federal or state funding to help.

“I don’t think a lot of companies can really hold on for another two weeks. So, we’re really hopeful that this restriction can be lifted sooner than later, and certainly the 19th is way too long from our perspective.

Joseph Esser, Oahu Wedding Association president

Esser said they were already managing professional weddings safely and should not have been shut down when cases started to surge again.

“We’re doing pre-vaccination checks and pre-testing checks, temperature checks, you know, all the different things that we know, work,” Esser explained.

“We have couples that are on that cusp of having their wedding on the 19th or 20th of October, not knowing whether or not their wedding can take place,” he continued. “So you know, the sooner we have a plan of action, the better we can advise our clients, and the better we can be able to keep our businesses open.”

Green said the risk of a future COVID surge is low and believes fully vaccinated events, weddings and even college football games will be safe.

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

“It’s all part of the process to get back to normal. Some of the hard things, like funeral services; some of the great things, like watching UH Rainbow Warriors kick butt, but all of these things have to be gradually put back into place and so we need to be very proactive,” Green said.

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