Honolulu officials are still working out the details of new rules for businesses and gatherings, but the prevalence of COVID-19 immunity will play a role, a spokesman for Mayor Rick Blangiardi said Thursday.
The vaccination rate will be “one of the biggest changes, in terms of the metrics determining the movement between tiers,” said Tim Sakahara, the mayor’s spokesman.
Among the possibilities for a new Tier 4 of Oahu’s reopening plan? Public gatherings of up to 25 people, and outdoor wedding parties of as many as 200. Currently, gatherings of only 10 people or fewer are permitted and outdoor weddings allow up to 100 people.
The official request letter has not yet been sent to state officials, he said.
“When the tier system was initially written, there was certainly no vaccine, and the timeline for vaccines was unknown and it wasn’t anticipated that we’d be at this point,” Sakahara said. “A lot has changed.”
Tier 4, as designed by former Mayor Kirk Caldwell, originally required the average daily case count to be under 20, with a test positivity rate below 1%.
Honolulu recorded an average of 39 new cases per day this week, and 1.5% of all tests conducted on Oahu were positive.
Those rates are higher than Tier 4 criteria, but Blangiardi has indicated he’s looking at ways to relax restrictions, especially in light of the wedding industry’s success in keeping the virus at bay. Weddings got the green light in March to hold outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people.
“We have evidence now since we opened up the wedding business for 100 people, it’s not been a source of any kind of clusters or surges,” Blangiardi said at a Tuesday press conference. “We’ve had a very good experience with weddings practicing protocols. I for one would be in favor of looking at further expansion.”
Under Tier 4’s original design, weddings of up to 200 people, including staff, may be permitted and the wedding parties could move indoors if the venue does not exceed 50% of capacity.
The mayor also hinted at the possibility of considering new rules for restaurants, which have abided by strict capacity limits during the past 15 months.
“I’m not prepared to tell you we could open up those restaurants at full capacity,” he said, but he noted that he has heard from restaurant owners about how hard it’s been to stay in business under the limitations.
The city will submit recommendations and look to the governor and the Department of Health to make the final call, he said.
“As we get our safer case counts down and more people vaccinated, I think there’s going to be opportunity here in the not too distant future to have that kind of movement,” he said.
A move to Tier 4 would involve other changes, although the mayor did not address them all at the press conference.
Gyms could operate at 75% capacity and indoor sports could be permitted under certain conditions. A full list of the possible new rules: