Mayor extends COVID-19 safety rules in Honolulu

HONOLULU (AP) — Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has extended coronavirus restrictions for another month through mid-March starting today, but said that could change if confirmed cases remain low.

“I don’t want to mislead the public in any way,” Blangiardi said during a news conference on Friday, adding that he believes he is being realistic and is managing expectations following potential coronavirus superspreader events like the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day.

Blangiardi said he will shift the island to the next reopening stage before March 15 if numbers remain low.

“The health and safety of everyone in the City and County of Honolulu remains our top priority and I want to move us forward in a way that is deliberate and based on science,” he said.

Currently, social distancing and masks are required. Up to five people may dine together inside a restaurant and gyms and fitness facilities are allowed to operate indoors at 25 percent capacity.

The announcement came after the state Department of Health reported low COVID-19 cases for about two weeks and a positivity rate of 1.5 percent, KHON-TV reported.

Some business owners have disagreed with the decision, arguing their businesses are still struggling.

“It’s a little disappointing,” said Kazuma Kitajima, restaurant manager at Doraku Sushi. Kitajima said he had hoped the mayor would loosen the 10 p.m. alcohol cut-off and adjust seating capacities.

Island Vintage Wine Bar manager Logan Taylor Motas said his bar can only seat 13 tables and that means they fill up a lot faster than they otherwise would.

“And that’s been the hardest part — just having to turn customers and maybe future regulars away,” Motas said, adding that pushing up the restaurant capacity from 50 percent to 75 percent would help the business.