Next COVID-19 Measures Shift Back to Counties on Dec. 1
Governor David Ige and the county mayors today announced the next phase of state and county measures related to COVID-19, giving the counties the ability to issue emergency orders without seeking approval of the state. After the current state of emergency expires on Tuesday, Nov. 30, the four county mayors will determine appropriate guidelines for their respective communities.
Maui and Honolulu Getting Rid of 6-Foot Distancing at Restaurants
Both Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said they would be getting rid of the six-foot distancing rule currently in place for restaurants, allowing eateries to resume full capacity for dining indoors, starting Dec. 1, 2021. Mayor Victorino said indoor dining will still be limited to those who show proof of vaccination or testing, as is currently the case.
“For gyms and other high traffic areas, we’ll let them go up to 100% capacity, but physical distancing will still be required… I’m looking into with Dr. [Lorrin] Pang, and other medical people to make sure that we’re able to drop those other restrictions as far as physical distancing is concerned. Outdoors, there’s no restrictions. When it comes to sporting events, fans will now be able to get together, but if you’re indoors, the mandate for indoor wearing of masks still exists statewide, as well as in Maui County,” said Mayor Victorino, who responded via Zoom from Las Vegas where he is attending the Maui Jim Maui Invitation basketball tournament.
He said he’s attending the event to make sure it goes off well, and returns to Maui next year. Tournament officials announced the move to the “Ninth Isle” for this year’s tournament due to the ongoing pandemic, travel restrictions, and COVID-19 protocols in Hawaiʻi.
“I want to thank the people of Maui County for doing such an excellent job of protecting and supporting one another throughout this entire pandemic. Our 1.5% positivity rate is one of the nation’s lowest. I also want to thank Governor Ige for his leadership and guidance over the past 20 months. I have no doubt the governor’s methodical approach saved hundreds of lives,” Mayor Victorino said in a statement following Gov. Ige’s press briefing.
“I remind everyone that vigilance is still needed as infection rates are rising in the continental US and Europe. As we monitor the global situation we will continue to seek guidance from our medical advisors,” he said. “My administration is currently reviewing the existing rules and we will soon announce plans to ease more of Maui County’s public health restrictions. We have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving and I wish the people of Maui County a very happy, healthy holiday.”
Honolulu Mayor Outlines Three Areas of Change:
As it relates to Oʻahu, Mayor Blangiardi outlined three mayor areas where changes are in store:
- “It’s implied that we are no longer require in the restaurants six-feet of separation at the tables. This is going to be terrific for our smaller restaurants. It is the fabric of our communities, it is the fabric of how we live; and as the governor just said, we need to get people back to work at those restaurants, staffed again, and get us all out enjoying time with our families and friends.”
- “For that matter, the rule that applies to the 10 [people] indoors and 25 outdoors is also being lifted. As we said this morning, all of our large gatherings, whether indoors or outdoors, we’re not going to require limitations. We’re actually going to allow people to food at those. We are going to rely on Safe Access Oʻahu,” said Mayor Blangiardi.
- “The third point from the City and County of Honolulu is that we’re no longer going to require mitigation plans for large gatherings.”
While the counties will no longer need state approvals for their emergency rules, Governor David Ige will sign a new emergency proclamation on Nov. 29. Details of the changes are outlined below:
State Changes Planned in New Emergency Proclamation:
- As of Dec. 1, counties will no longer be required to obtain the approval of the governor or the director of the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency prior to issuing county emergency orders, rules or proclamations. **This marks the return to typical emergency situations in which the counties are the lead, and the state provides guidance and support. Emergencies are usually county-specific and county-led, with the state serving in a supporting role.
- The Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency will continue its various support functions.
- The Department of Health will continue to issue public health guidance.
- Executive Order 21-08, issued on Nov. 2, 2021 regarding statewide limits for social gatherings, restaurants, bars, social establishments, and gyms will end on Dec. 1, 2021. The counties will implement appropriate measures for social gatherings, restaurant operations, social establishments and other venues within their own counties.
- Extensions for driver’s license renewals, instruction permits, and replacements are ending as of Nov. 29, 2021.
- Consistent with the federal and state implementation of vaccination and testing policies, the state will no longer offer a Critical Infrastructure workers’ exemption to the 10-day travel quarantine. Exemptions for persons who previously tested positive for COVID-19 and other exemptions will continue to be considered.
Sherry Menor-McNamara, President & CEO, Chamber of Commerce Hawaiʻi, responded to the governor’s announcement, to lift statewide limits for social gatherings and social establishments, saying it’s what the Chamber has been advocating for.
“As we approach the holiday season, we are all well aware of the many sacrifices that have been made and the challenges faced by all, and the value placed on spending time with family and friends. We also appreciate the announcement by Honolulu Mayor Blangiardi of his intention to further relieve business and social restrictions by lifting the social distancing rule for Oʻahu restaurants, allowing them to operate at full capacity. The relief measures are a welcomed positive note, as we look forward to furthering our state’s economic recovery into 2022,” said Menor-McNamara.
HTA President & Chief Executive Officer John De Fries weighed in saying, “Capacity restrictions being lifted for events on Oʻahu is welcomed news for Hawaiʻi’s meetings, conventions and incentives market and the Hawaiʻi Convention Center, as it will allow us to retain group bookings and secure new group business. The announcement gives meeting planners added confidence to book events and reassure attendees they will have a safe and memorable visit here in the Hawaiian Islands.”
State Rules that will Remain in Place:
Gov. Ige said the following basic measures “have proven to be effective” and will remain unchanged in the next emergency proclamation relating to COVID-19:
- The Hawaiʻi Safe Travels Program;
- The indoor mask mandate;
- The vaccination or testing requirements for state executive and county employees; and
- The vaccination or testing requirements for contractors and visitors to state facilities.
In a press release statement, Gov. Ige said, “Hawaiʻi residents have worn their masks and avoided large gatherings, even important family events. Most of our residents are vaccinated. We worked together to keep our communities as safe as possible during this pandemic. The State of Hawaiʻi is now ready to move from overall state coordination back to the counties.”
“These steps serve to revitalize our visitor industry at an appropriate time, with our state’s vaccination rate ranked among the highest in the nation, coupled with the health safeguards for domestic travelers that are required by Hawaiʻi’s Safe Travels program. The modified federal restrictions on international arrivals and the continuation of Hawaiʻi’s indoor mask mandate provide additional safeguards,” said HTA President & Chief Executive Officer John De Fries.
“The nature of this emergency was like no other, and it required a level of federal, state and county coordination that we’ve never before seen. I’m grateful for the leadership of our mayors and for the collaboration and close working relationship that we have. Together, with the people of Hawaiʻi, we arrived at this point. But the pandemic is not over. We urge residents to remain vigilant as we continue to protect the health and safety of our kamaʻāina, re-energize our economy and strengthen our communities,” said Gov. Ige.
Gov. Ige thanked the public for following the restrictions to date that he said have helped to reduce the rate of infection in Hawaiʻi. “As we approach the holiday season, we do want to encourage everyone to be vigilant… We are working through and hoping to recover our economy and get everyone back to work,” he said.
Once signed next week Monday, the latest proclamation relating to COVID-19 will continue through Jan. 28, 2022, unless terminated or superseded by a separate proclamation.