HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi extended the suspension of large gatherings for another 28 days until Tuesday, Oct. 19, while hospitalizations remained relatively high.
Since Aug. 25, social gatherings on Oahu have been scaled back to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, following an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases linked to community spread.
The suspension was originally in place until Sept. 22. Large weddings, funerals, concerts and sporting events are among the list of gatherings that remain suspended, this time as part of the Safe Oahu Response Plan.
That means the University of Hawaii will remain the only program in the country that will not allow fans in its stadium. Concerts and weddings will also be restricted to the same regulations.
“We know that the curtailing of large gatherings has a lot to do with communal spread, which is why we made a decision and it’s reflective in the numbers coming down. And so we’re confident in the strategy we struck and we don’t want to disrupt that strategy,” Blangiardi said.
It is disappointing news to University of Hawaii (UH) football fans who are not allowed to attend home games. City officials notified the University of the changes in protocol on Aug. 20. Prior to that announcement, UH had plans to allow vaccinated fans while also enforcing mandatory mask-wearing.
The mayor previously said regulations could change based on current conditions and called it a fluid situation.
On Monday, Blangiardi announced moving away from the tier system and into a more responsive approach to Honolulu’s COVID restrictions. He said part of re-evaluating gathering rules is hospitalization numbers — they must drop “well below 200,” although there is no hard number.
The next home football game for UH will be on Saturday, Oct. 2, against Fresno State, which will come before the conclusion of the 28-day suspension extension.
COVID hospitalizations statewide were still just below 500, according to Mayor Blangiardi, who added he would like that to come down to under 200.
“The key metric will be our hospitals. We’ve said all along there’s a finite amount of resources in our hospital beds in our intensive care units. They’re providing for other patients that are non-COVID related. And right now our hospitals are still very full,” he said.
He pointed out that if FEMA had not sent hundreds of healthcare workers to deal with the surge, the crisis would have been much worse. It is not clear if Hawaii will get that kind of help again if COVID case numbers and hospitalizations shoot back up.
The mayor’s decision to extend the ban on large events is another blow to those in the wedding industry and other large events. They said professionally managed events can be done safely so they should be allowed to hold larger gatherings. They met with the mayor to discuss mitigation plans but were denied.
“We literally said we will do 100% vaccinated weddings, people are pretesting as well, wearing masks, having a COVID compliance officer, having social distancing, not having dancing, not having to serve food as buffets,” said Joseph Esser, president of the Oahu Wedding Association.
Get more coronavirus news: COVID vaccines and boosters
Since Sept. 13, all customers have been required to show proof of a COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test to get into restaurants, bars, gyms and other venues on Oahu. The changes are part of the Safe Access Oahu program, which is in place for 60 days through mid-November.
Click here for a list of businesses impacted by the emergency order.