Restrictions, Safe Travels, additional testing announcements expected this week

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Oahu’s seven-day case average stood at 59 on Sunday and state officials say there are discussions of moving back to Tier 2.

Oahu has been in Tier 3 for about five weeks, and the seven-day case average continues to rise.

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Under the current system, the case average has to be above 50 for two weeks to snap back to Tier2. Last week, Oahu was at 58.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has been clear that he doesn’t want to have to move backwards when it comes to the City’s reopening strategy.

In fact, the mayor modified the tier system in mid-March to help bring more people and industries back online, including opening weddings to a 100-people maximum, and reopening bars while allowing them to operate until midnight.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi issued the following statement on Friday:

We are in consultation with the Governor and Hawaii (and) Department of Health, given our shared concern regarding the recent increase in positive COVID-19 case counts. As we enter the Easter holiday weekend, we stress to the public that hosting or participating in large unpermitted social gatherings will put more people at risk. The recent rogue events involving large illegal gatherings with no mask wearing and no physical distancing are jeopardizing our current Tier 3 status and are completely unacceptable.

A City spokesperson said discussions with state health officials continued over the holiday weekend.

Lt. Governor Josh Green agrees and says big events are hurting everyone.

“There has to be a little bit more personal responsibility from people in their 20s,” said Green. “And they’ve been going to big events and that is causing spread without a doubt.”

Green, who worked an ER shift on Hawaii Island this weekend, said he gave Mayor Blangiardi some advice.  

“I advised the mayor to consider using a scalpel rather than perhaps the hammer that’s been recommended, and a scalpel would mean, yes, checking bars and restaurants carefully, (and) making sure you have some additional enforcement where there are large gatherings,” he said.

Green says case numbers and hospitalizations are relatively low and with more people getting vaccinated the risk is expected to remain low.

“People’s lives have to go on, so a scalpel approach would be my recommendation. Watching the numbers very carefully, and there’s nothing to prevent us from behaving just as individuals safely as though we’re in Tier 2, without doing something that will really damage the fabric of our economy,” he added.

On Friday, the CDC announced new travel guidance for vaccinated people; allowing vaccinated travelers to bypass a pre-test and quarantine which would impact Hawaii’s Safe Travels program. For now, there are no plans to get rid of the program.

On January 21, Lt. Governor Green sent a letter to State Adjutant General Kenneth Hara, for Governor Ige’s approval, asking for a small group to work on a program that would modify Safe Travels, allowing vaccinated travelers to bypass quarantine and a pre-test while awaiting CDC guidance and approval. His request mentioned opening up to inter-island first then trans-pacific travelers. It wasn’t approved.

Last week, Governor Ige said he was waiting on CDC guidance regarding vaccinated travel and its unknown if he’ll choose to follow CDC guidance, or keep Safe Travels in place as it is.

Governor Ige has said he’s concerned about people falsifying vaccine cards to enter the state.

“If I may, some people in our administration have said that they’re worried about falsification of data, and I had a lot of time to think over the weekend and that is not correct,” said Green. “We’ve already had 2.2 million people come in with the Safe Travels Program, and it would be easier to falsify a lab test than a vaccination card because the vaccination card has very specific information. It has the batch numbers of the vaccine you got, (it) has your birth date on it.”

“There will be less fraud with a vaccination card than there will be with a pre-test program, so we should definitely move to that,” he continued.

Instead of calling it a vaccine passport, Green said Safe Travels passport and explained that Safe Travels would still be there and vaccinated travelers could possibly take a picture of their card and upload it to Safe Travels; when they arrive. They would show their physical vaccine card to the screeners.

“It will help us recover more quickly over the next like six to eight months, and that means family’s lives returned to normal, but if we don’t do it, it would be a disappointment,” Green said.

Last week, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino wrote a letter to Governor Ige requesting all inbound travelers to Maui take a rapid COVID-19 test on arrival. He said on Thursday he hoped to get a response from the governor by next week.

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