Maui to require proof of vaccination for indoor dining and limits gathering sizes

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Some of the strictest rules in the state will take effect in Maui County on Wednesday, Sept. 15. It is called “Safer Outside” and Mayor Michael Victorino hopes it will flatten the curve.

The new rules limit inside gatherings to five and outside gatherings to 10. People must show proof of vaccination to dine inside a restaurant and unvaccinated customers will only be allowed to eat at outdoor seating areas, or opt for takeout.

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Commercial events of 50 people or more will need to apply for an exemption. Alexa Caskey, Moku Roots restaurant co-owner on Maui, does not think it will work.

“I completely think that it’s an overreach, and I also just think it’s going to be incredibly ineffective,” Caskey said.

She does not expect it to impact her restaurant too much, but she does not think it is right.

“We’re just not going to be enforcing discriminating against unvaccinated people. so we’re just going to do only outdoor seating,” she explained. “When COVID first hit, we expanded our outdoor seating area quite a bit. So it really isn’t going to be a huge imposition to our dining space. It’s just kind of a principle of it.”

Restaurants and bars are considered high-risk since people remove their masks to eat and drink and often leave them off.

Victorino said there will be enforcement but they are relying heavily on businesses to do it.

“The Liquor Department will be monitoring a lot of that for restaurants,” he said. “We hope that they’ll do the right thing. And the department of health will have some people going out when they can to check out things.”

Victorino said businesses that do not comply could get shut down. Hawaii Restaurant Association board member Tambara Garrick said that is concerning.

“Again, it goes back to the burden on the restaurants,” Garrick said. “To be in charge of verifying someone’s vaccination is very difficult and puts them in a really challenging position.”

The Hawaii SMART Health Card digital vaccination verification launches Friday, Sept. 10. Garrick said that will help but restaurants still need to get equipment and to educate their staff. She said they need more time.

“Having some additional time for education and to be able to prepare for the restaurants could go a long way to make sure that it’s really good for both the guests and also for the restaurants,” Garrick explained.

The rules will be in place for 30 days and then will be re-evaluated.

Ige’s approval of Maui’s program follows the announcement of Safe Access Oahu, which starts Sept. 13. Customers will need to show proof of a COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test result taken within the past 48 hours to get into restaurants, bars, gyms and other venues on Oahu.

Currently, the City and County of Honolulu does not give an exemption to those who are unvaccinated to dine outdoors, which cities like New York and San Francisco have allowed.

“So different than Honolulu we are allowing unvaccinated patrons to be served seated outside. So again, safer outside. Main mantra that we’re doing is ‘Safer Outside,’” Maui County managing director Sandy Baz said.

Those who violate the rules will be fined $250 for each first violation and $500 for each subsequent violation. Anyone who breaks the mandatory quarantine requirements shall be guilty of a petty misdemeanor with fines up to $1,000, a maximum of 30 days jail, or both.

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For the list of emergency rules, click here.

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