Honolulu will stop requiring proof of vaccine or negative Covid-19 tests to dine indoors beginning Sunday as Mayor Rick Blangiardi allows the city and county’s emergency proclamation to expire.

The decision to end Oahu’s “Safe Access” program was widely expected after Maui Mayor Michael Victorino ended a similar vaccine mandate on Feb. 21 as the number of coronavirus cases continues to fall.

“This is the day we’ve been waiting for, for the last two years … the city has no emergency orders,” Blangiardi said Monday at a press conference. “We are back to where we were before the fourth of March 2020. With respect to restrictions, there are none, any longer.”

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth declared the immediate end of Covid restrictions on the Big Island Monday, while Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami announced his island’s remaining emergency rules would expire Tuesday, rounding out the last of the county-level Covid rules.

Hawaii, however, remains the only state to have an indoor mask mandate following Gov. David Ige’s decision to depart from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance after the CDC announced Friday it was loosening masking recommendations for 70% of Americans.

Murphy’s Bar and Grill staff member Pepe Diaz carries lunch items to awaiting guests.
Murphy’s Bar and Grill staff member Pepe Diaz carries lunch items to waiting guests. Oahu’s vaccine-or-test mandate ends Saturday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Under the Safe Access program, Honolulu customers are required to either be fully vaccinated or test negative for Covid within the last 48 hours in order to dine indoors, exercise at a gym or enter a variety of recreation and entertainment venues.

Private business owners can continue requiring customers to show proof of vaccine or a negative test once Safe Access ends, Blangiardi said, recognizing that many still worry about the spread of Covid.

“I want to stay sensitive to that fear,” Blangiardi said. “So, I think it’s going to be incumbent upon anybody running a business to keep their patrons comfortable and to make that call as to whether or not they think (checking vaccine status) is the responsible thing to do.”

Blangiardi noted the statewide indoor mask mandate stands but said he supports making indoor masking “optional” and allowing people to “transition out of this disease.” He said he believes residents would continue wearing masks outside of a government mandate.

“We haven’t had an (outdoor) mask mandate in place for months, (but) I still see people wearing masks,” Blangiardi said. “The vast majority, other than in Waikiki, are outside wearing masks.”

Honolulu’s vaccine mandate for city and county workers also remains unchanged since it is part of the governor’s emergency proclamation set to expire March 25.

The decision to end Oahu’s last Covid restrictions was bolstered by plummeting case counts and the island’s robust vaccination numbers, Blangiardi said, with a statewide-high of 80% of residents fully vaccinated and 38% opting for an additional dose.

Hawaii reported a seven-day average of 202 infections Monday, with Oahu accounting for 135 of those cases, a 63% decrease from two weeks ago when the city and county reported a daily average of 367 cases, according to the latest state numbers.

Blangiardi, however, did not rule out reinstating the vaccine-or-test mandate in the event of a future wave of Covid cases that may threaten to overwhelm Oahu hospitals, similar to the emergence of surges driven by the delta and omicron variants.

“We now know a lot more than we ever knew two years ago,” Blangiardi said. “We are prepared at any time to take whatever action necessary, whatever that condition should bring.”

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