The Hawaii wedding industry got permission to resume under certain rules Friday, marking a major victory for wedding planners after a year of restrictions.

Outdoor weddings got a go-ahead from Gov. David Ige, as long as they are supervised by event planners and limit attendance to fewer than 100 people, including staff. Tables may seat no more than 10 people, who must wear masks and have their temperatures taken.

Even the dance floor is subject to restrictions — a limit of 32 dancers at once, spaced apart and wearing masks.

Melissa Le holds a sign in front of Honolulu Hale last week. Outdoor weddings got the go-ahead in Honolulu Friday, but with restrictions. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Rules for businesses have been relaxed this week, even as Oahu’s proportion of COVID-19 diagnoses grew.

Oahu remains in Tier 3 of its reopening plan. The island recorded an average of 47 new cases daily this week, and 1.7% of tests were positive.

In an email to Civil Beat, Tim Sakahara, the mayor’s spokesman, said in a statement that the city recognized there was an “uptick in positive cases” and will continue to work with Department of Health and experts to “assess current risks and make adjustments as needed.”

“The community must also work together to prevent the spread of the virus by continuing to wear masks, remaining physically distanced and abiding by the rules of the reopening strategy,” he added.

Statewide, the islands saw an average of 77 daily COVID-19 cases, and 1.5% of tests came back positive.

More than 29,000 people have been infected since the highly contagious respiratory disease was first documented in the islands last year, and 458 people have died.

Kauai and Hawaii counties continue to see the lowest rates of COVID-19 infections, with fewer than 1% positive tests.

Registered nurse Jomelyn Marcelino prepares syringes for the COVID-19 Vaccination held at Trinity United Methodist Church.
The state’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign will expand to include people 60 years and older starting Monday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

In its weekly report, Department of Health officials said they are monitoring several outbreaks on different islands.

On Oahu, the department’s Disease Outbreak Control Division investigators are still looking into what happened among two COVID-19 clusters in unspecified “educational settings” that have led to 22 infections. Two clusters associated with Oahu restaurants led to 19 people being infected. Another cluster of eight people was tied to transmission in a “construction or industrial” setting, which includes construction sites, landscaping companies, shipyards, manufacturers, industrial warehouses or sales and distribution centers. The report did not specify.

On Maui, DOH officials found that at least eight people at a middle school did not necessarily contract the virus from each other. Rather, they likely contracted the virus at home, where household members are tied to two other clusters, one from a large religious gathering and another among hotel employees.

“Even though cases are frequently identified in students or staff at Hawaii schools, transmission on K-12 school campuses has been rare,” officials wrote in the report.

The largest outbreak on Maui continues to be at the Maui Community Correctional Center, including 93 cases to date, according to DOH. The Department of Public Safety reported Friday only three of those infected had active infections and at least 86 have recovered, while a total of 166 are quarantining.

The Department of Public Safety also reported two new cases this week involving employees at the Women’s Community Correctional Center (WCCC), who last worked March 23.

“No WCCC inmates have reported symptoms but as a precaution the facility has enacted its pandemic protocol to quarantine the facility and suspend all inmate movement,” according to a statement from DPS officials.

Waikiki Hotels from Diamond Head hike summit. December 18, 2020
More visitors are coming to the islands, and the pace is expected to pick up this summer, although visitor numbers are still a fraction of what they were before the pandemic. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

As restrictions ease and the vaccination campaign continues, state officials say tourism and travel is expected to pick up this summer. In February, approximately 235,000 visitors arrived, compared to about 828,000 the same month last year, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

State health officials called COVID-19 transmission among the visitor and hospitality industry a “concern,” but noted that the most recent cases involved hotel staff, not visitors.

They’re currently investigating three clusters involving 15 workers in hotels and accommodations, including one who had traveled inter-island.

“In at least one instance, noncompliance to masking requirements was observed in the environment,” DOH officials wrote. “As with other industries, social interactions among coworkers at or outside of work are the most common link found between cases in hospitality industry settings.”

Hawaii health officials continued to widen eligibility for vaccines as the rollout moves into phase 1c, which includes about half of the state’s population of people 16 and older. Starting Monday, people 60-and-older can register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.

The health department and clinics are prioritizing certain groups, including those with severe respiratory disease who are on oxygen or who require dialysis or are undergoing chemotherapy or other infusion therapy, and essential workers in hotels, restaurants and bars.

On Thursday, DOH Director Dr. Libby Char said she was “cautiously optimistic” that Hawaii will meet Pres. Joe Biden’s mandate that all states open registration to the public by May.

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