Effective Dec. 1, there will be no capacity limits for restaurants, bars and social establishments on Oahu. And indoor or outdoor events on Oahu will also be unlimited although attendees will have the option of being tested in lieu of being vaccinated, and establishments will no longer have to collect contact tracing information, Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced Tuesday.

The loosening of pandemic restrictions applies to all events, Blangiardi said. For events that involve the serving of food and drinks, staff will still be required to be vaccinated or tested weekly.

Restaurants and bars also would not have to implement six-foot distancing requirements between tables and groups, the mayor said.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi speaks to media before the holiday tree arrives at Honolulu Hale.
Mayor Rick Blangiardi struck a cautiously optimistic tone at a press conference on Tuesday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

“We’ve gone through a lot this past year,” the mayor said. “It’s a time to celebrate. Be careful. Be responsible. This war is not over. But we’re ready to step forward.”

Masks will be still be required for all events, indoors or out, Blangiardi said.

“If you’re going to be with a lot of people for a long time, it’s probably the most prudent thing to do,” he said.

Gyms and indoor fitness facilities will also be allowed to operate at full capacity but will need to continue following Safe Access Oahu rules, Blangiardi said. That means masks will still be required and vaccination or test results will still need to be shown.

The announcements on loosening restrictions come as Gov. David Ige also decided that he would leave it up to the counties to decide what restrictions, if any, should be placed on businesses and social gatherings. Ige and the four county mayors updated reporters at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Ige came to that decision after seeing Covid-19 cases in the state stabilize. He said that hospitalization rates have dropped, returning to numbers seen before a spike in cases over the summer.

“It is a really good time to pivot state coordination back to the counties,” Ige said.

Blangiardi and Maui Mayor Mike Victorino both decided to eliminate the capacity limits for most establishments and social gatherings. Victorino said that gyms in Maui County should still implement six-foot social distancing measures.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said that he intends to make “big changes” but wouldn’t announce what those were Tuesday. Roth plans to confer with his team before making an announcement in the coming days.

Blangiardi also said his administration will no longer require pandemic mitigation plans for large events.

The Honolulu mayor said he was motivated to loosen the rules because of Hawaii’s Covid-19 vaccination rate, low rate of hospitalizations and lower case counts. In Honolulu, 75% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the state’s Covid data dashboard, and the county currently has a seven-day average of 63 cases.

Blangiardi said he made the decision to loosen the rules in consultation with medical professionals.

The mayor said he’s not letting his guard down completely. Covid-19 surges are still occurring throughout the world, he noted. The city will continue to monitor the situation and won’t hesitate to revert back if necessary, he said. But Blangiardi said he wants to “stay positive” and is not expecting a surge locally.

The city will keep running Covid-19 testing sites for now, the mayor said, but it won’t continue indefinitely.

“We’re going to see what these next few weeks bring as we get deep into the holiday season,” he said.

Though there are no requirements on social gatherings on Oahu and in Maui County, Ige urged residents to remain vigilant. He encouraged people to continue wearing masks while indoors.

He expects an increase in cases over the holiday season, but not a surge that could overwhelm the healthcare system.

“We don’t see, and don’t believe, the current virus cases would be a huge, overwhelming concern,” Ige said.

Both press conferences with the mayors and governor, like many during the pandemic, were conducted virtually with reporters sending questions by text. In another hopeful note, Blangiardi said the next press conference in Honolulu may be conducted in person.

Civil Beat reporter Blaze Lovell contributed to this story

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