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Mayor: Maui rules will be eased soon

Honolulu loosens restrictions as cases drop

On the heels of Honolulu announcing it will relax certain COVID-19 restrictions due to reduced case counts and other health data, Mayor Michael Victorino on Friday afternoon said looser rules are in the works for Maui County and details will be rolled out early next week.

Victorino stayed mum on the specifics during the county news conference, though, adding that various sectors will be “happy” with upcoming changes. Requests to amend public health emergency rules are pending approval by the state.

“I won’t discuss the specific details until the governor approves it — but let me assure you, businesses big and small, the hospitality industry, farming and all our medical areas will be happy to hear some of these changes, and you, the residents, because you made it happen, will be the benefactors,” he said.

Over recent weeks Maui County has maintained the lowest test positivity rate in the state. Victorino praised residents for their work to reduce transmission, saying that that he, too, doesn’t like having to impose mandates.

“I don’t like mandates,” he said. “Like you I would rather do what is right — not be told to do it right.”

“But you know there are people that refused to do it, that’s why mandates by the state and the federal coming through the county has promulgated and grown,” Victorino added. “But I want to thank the people of Maui County who have cooperated with this period to enhance these restrictions. Because of you and our low transmission rate — the lowest in the state — we can look forward to a lot of changes to get some normalcy back into our lives.”

When asked by The Maui News whether the mayor will extend rules that require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars and gyms, a county spokesman said the mayor is “waiting to see how things play out before that decision is made.”

“If numbers stay good, it can change then,” Shane Tegarden said via text.

The rules were implemented Sept. 15 and the mayor said they would be reassessed after 30 days.

Maui’s test positivity rate was at about 2 percent Friday. Seven people were hospitalized at Maui Memorial Medical Center, including two in the ICU and one on a ventilator. All seven are unvaccinated, according to county Managing Director Sandy Baz.

Still, the county has the lowest vaccination rate at 62 percent of the eligible population vaccinated compared to a 69.3 percent statewide average, he said.

Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi during an earlier news conference Friday announced relaxed rules that impact outdoor venues, spectators at the next University of Hawaii football game, indoor entertainment, outdoor weddings and funerals, golf tournaments, road races, triathalons and the last call for alcohol. Social gathering sizes are unchanged at 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

Ige added that he is working with mayors of Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island to ease respective county rules.

Honolulu’s changes come in response to declining numbers of cases, hospitalized patients and test positivity rates, along with the rise in vaccination rates. Still, Blangiardi echoed that “this is not an all-clear.”

After a delta variant-driven surge this summer threatened hospital capacities and drove daily case counts above 1,000 statewide, county mayors tightened restrictions and Ige requested that visitors avoid traveling to Hawaii through this month.

Ige on Friday said he does not have specific thresholds for amendments to public health emergency rules — whether easing or tightening mandates.

“There is no simple, single metric that can capture that but we are certainly looking at a number of things in order to make decisions,” he said at the news conference.

Ige said the goal is to manage Hawaii’s health care infrastructure while taking prudent risks and building back the state’s economy.

“This is not an all-clear signal,” he said. “The pandemic is far from finished in Hawaii, in the nation, and around the world.”

Honolulu City and County changes announced Friday include the following:

• Effective immediately after the new order is signed, the last call for alcohol will be extended from 10 p.m. to midnight at bars and restaurants.

• Beginning Wednesday, outdoor seated entertainment events — including sporting arenas and concert venues — are allowed at 50 percent capacity or a maximum of 1,000 attendees, whichever is smaller. Entrants must be vaccinated, masked and physically distanced and no food or beverages other than water are allowed. Golf tournaments will be allowed with 100 percent of participants vaccinated. Road races and triathlons are allowed with a maximum of 500 vaccinated participants and staggered starts of groups with no more than 25 people.

• Beginning Oct. 20, indoor seated entertainment venues are allowed at 50 percent capacity or a maximum of 500 attendees, whichever is smaller. Entrants must be vaccinated, masked and physically distanced and no food or beverages other than water are allowed. Outdoor “interactive events” — including traditional gatherings such as weddings and funerals — are allowed at 50 percent capacity or a maximum of 150 attendees and event staff, whichever is smaller. Vaccinations and masks are required. Food and drinks are allowed, along with masked mingling and interaction.

For information on Oahu changes, visit www.oneoahu.org/safe-oahu-response-plan.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com. The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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