A multitude of changes could be coming to Hawaii’s pandemic rules in the next several weeks.

Soon, parents could be allowed to watch their children play sports while more outdoor competitions may also be allowed. There could be policy changes for those who are collecting unemployment payments in the state, and Hawaii might announce a vaccine passport for trans-Pacific travelers within the next month.

Gov. David Ige on Monday discussed those topics and more during an interview on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” program.

Governor David Ige gestures during press conference answering teleconferenced reporters questions. February 9, 2021
Parents may be allowed to gather and watch their children play outdoor sports under new guidelines Gov. David Ige is expected to issue in the coming days. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

UPDATED: Late Monday afternoon, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced that spectators are now OK at outdoor sports events as long as they are wearing masks if they are not 6 feet apart.

Blangiardi said in a press release “spectators are allowed, however face coverings must be worn consistent with Order 5 (e.g., required outdoors when physical distance of six feet from other individuals, who are not members of the same household or living unit, is not maintainable); and any group of spectators shall not be larger than 10 individuals, consistent with Order 3 of the emergency proclamation.”

He said Ige approved the rule change on Monday.

The rule continues to prohibit socializing and potlucks at the field/court before or after the scheduled sports activity.

One of the most significant changes state officials are undertaking involves implementing vaccine rates into state and county tiered reopening plans. However, Ige said that he didn’t have the metrics for what that would look like yet.

“We do know that the fastest way to get back to normal is for everyone to get vaccinated and for everyone to achieve herd immunity,” the governor said.

The point at which a certain population achieves herd immunity has been debated. In the U.S. as a whole, experts say reaching that milestone is probably impossible.

Ige said that incorporating vaccine rates into the tiered system could be another way to encourage individuals to get vaccinated.

Hawaii ranks in the Top 10 for states with the highest rate of fully inoculated residents at about 43%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that vaccinated individuals don’t need to wear masks.

However, Ige said he still wants to see more Hawaii residents vaccinated before lifting mask mandates. The governor also said determining who is vaccinated and who is not may be difficult for officers enforcing mask rules.

“It would be unenforceable. That means any kind of mask mandate would be unenforceable,” Ige said. “Our discussion focused on the fact that the majority of people in Hawaii are not vaccinated.”

Vaccine Passports Coming

The state and two contractors are still working on integrating vaccination records from other states with Hawaii’s Safe Travel program. On May 11, Hawaii residents vaccinated in the state were able to upload their vaccination documents to the Safe Travels application as part of their travel plans.

Ige said on Monday that such a program for mainland visitors could be coming within a month.

“We anticipate, within the next month, we will be able to announce this as a program,” Ige said.  “We’re making progress. It is something that is complicated but we think it is very important.”

Tourism arrivals have already been increasing in the state. Hawaii averaged about 29,000 daily arrivals over the last seven days.

On Sunday, when almost 28,000 passengers flew into Hawaii, more than 17,000 of those people were here for a vacation. Returning residents accounted for about 6,600 of those passengers.

No Word On UI Payments

During the “Spotlight” segment, host Yunji de Nies asked Ige if he would start requiring individuals who collect UI payments to start searching for at least three jobs each week. That is a requirement that was suspended at the start of the pandemic but one that governors in other starts have started implementing again.

Ige said the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations will have new unemployment guidelines starting June 1. But the governor wouldn’t talk about what those changes might include.

He said an announcement on those changes could be expected in the coming days.

Ige also said he will soon lift restrictions that have prevented parents from watching their children play outdoor youth sports, an action that U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said last week he was urging the governor to consider. Ige said the state may begin to allow spectators at other sports, such as water sports like surfing.

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