Whether or not the public will be let back in to the State Capitol for the next legislative session is all dependent on Oahu’s coronavirus case count come January, according to Senate President Ron Kouchi.

The Senate is preparing to allow a limited number of people to come to the Capitol for hearings when the Legislature reconvenes in January, Kouchi said during a segment of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight program.

Kouchi said the Legislature has increased bandwidth in the State Capitol and plans to allow the public to testify remotely.

“We’re preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best,” Kouchi said.

Senate President Ron Kouchi said the Legislature is working on plans to allow the public back to the State Capitol for the next legislative session. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Around this time of year, lawmakers would typically be busy with charting out policy changes. This year, however, much of their time has been spent hashing out the Capitol’s operations, Kouchi said.

Plans aren’t final yet, but the building has been preparing in the event the public can come to the Capitol once the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 20.

So far, chairs have been taken out of conference rooms to limit the number of people in one room at a time, and there are plans to roll out television sets on the Capitol hallways for people to watch the hearings.

The legislative committees may also limit the number of testifiers appearing at one time in a room.

Kouchi didn’t specify which tier Oahu must be in to allow the public access to the State Capitol. Oahu is currently under Tier 2, which allows for gatherings of five people or less in most social situations.

In order to stay in Tier 2, average daily case counts over a rolling, 7-day period must stay below 100, while positivity rates stay below 5%.

To move to Tier 3, the average daily case count must fall below 49, and the positivity rate for COVID-19 tests must stay below 2.49%.

Tier 3 would further loosen capacity restrictions for businesses and allow gatherings of up to 10 people.

However, it’s also unclear if Honolulu Mayor-elect Rick Blangiardi will make any changes to Hawaii’s tiered reopening plan.

A recent spike in cases on Oahu has been attributed to an outbreak in the Halawa prison.

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