Gov. David Ige may consider cutting the size limits of gatherings by about half to 10 outdoors and just five indoors should the number of cases of Covid-19 rise again and further strain be placed on Hawaii’s limited hospital resources.
The governor also said certain nighttime restrictions could be implemented to curtail the movement of Oahu residents.
Those are just some possibilities for further restrictions should Hawaii’s Covid situation get worse, but Ige said they won’t be implemented just yet. He noted that Covid cases in the state have reached a “plateau.”
On Monday, the state reported 461 new positive coronavirus cases for a total of 72,352. The seven-day average was 566, down 37% from an average of 896 daily cases two weeks ago. The death toll remained at 660.
“If we can maintain this slowing of the increase (in cases), we won’t need to place further restrictions,” Ige said Monday during a segment of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” program. “But we do have to get the hospitalizations lower and especially the ICU cases down lower. That really would be the trigger of further restrictions or having to do even more than we are doing right now.”
The governor also said he had no plans to reimplement broad stay-at-home orders that caused the economy to essentially shut down after the pandemic began early last year.
“There won’t be another full-scale shutdown,” Ige said, adding that such a broad set of restrictions wouldn’t make sense considering a majority of the state is fully vaccinated.
As of Monday, 65.5% of Hawaii residents have been inoculated against Covid.
Ige has so far declined to specify at what point further restrictions could be implemented in the islands. He said Monday that the same metrics would determine when to rollback some of the restrictions in place now – such as limiting restaurants to 50% capacity, outdoor gatherings to 25 people, indoor gatherings to 10 people and a general ban on all large events.
It’s not yet clear if the restrictions on indoor gatherings to five people would also extend to commercial businesses. But Ige said the point of such a measure would be to target gatherings in homes.
“Five is a signal to the community you shouldn’t be outside your living bubble,” Ige said. “It should be family only.”
Ige also doesn’t appear close to issuing a curfew for Oahu.
Ige said nighttime driving restrictions are being considered to reduce traffic and cut down automobile accidents that create more strain on medical resources.
Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell imposed similar restrictions in an attempt to control gatherings over the Easter Weekend last year. Caldwell rescinded the rule after finding that it didn’t result in many citations for large gatherings.
It also appears the University of Hawaii Manoa will continue to be the only NCAA Division 1 school with no fans present at its sporting events.
The state and City and County of Honolulu’s current restrictions on gathering sizes also rule out any large events – like concerts at the Waikiki Shell or football games at UH’s new Ching Field.
The university spent $8 million to renovate what was the Rainbow Warrior’s practice field into a stadium capable of holding 9,000 spectators. Those stands were empty during the team’s home-opener against Portland State University on Sept. 4.
Ige said the challenge of allowing large events now is the state’s hospital capacity. Just two weeks ago, health officials reported that Oahu ICUs were over capacity. On Monday, health officials reported 392 Covid patients were hospitalized, a drop from recent days when the number rose above 400.
If just one spectator was infected with the delta variant, having an event with 4,000 gathered “can really be a superspreader activity,” Ige said.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell