Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said it would be very difficult, but that there is still hope that Oahu could get to Tier 3 by Christmas in about two weeks.
“I believe it is possible to advance to Tier 3,” said Caldwell during a 12:30 p.m. press conference at Honolulu Hale today. “It’s going to be very hard to do so by Christmas, and we’re just beginning the first week of the 2-week period to get to Christmas Eve. So every day now counts for the next two weeks. …If we do everything right on Christmas Eve we could move to Tier 3 which means we could have 10 people gathering in our homes.”
Oahu recorded two additional coronavirus-related deaths today and 79 new infections. The Hawaii Department of Health did not provide any further details regarding the latest deaths on Oahu.
Oahu’s 7-day average of new cases stood at 66, and the 7-day positivity rate at 2%.
To move to Tier 3 from Tier 2, the 7-day average of new cases must be below 50 on two consecutive Wednesdays. Also, the 7-day average positivity rate must be below 2.5% on those two Wednesdays. At Tier 3, up to 10 people would be allowed to gather in homes.
“I believe we’re a community that knows how to work hard, that knows how to exhibit perseverance and to dig deep,” Caldwell said.
The rest of the nation, Caldwell noted, is in dire straits, with more than 290,000 deaths total since the pandemic started in March, and more than 3,000 deaths recorded in one day.
Hawaii is doing comparatively well, but residents should not let their guard down.
“We can have great pride for what we’re doing here on Oahu and the state, and we can all pat ourselves on the back,” he said. “That’s why I remain hopeful we can get to Tier 3. It also reminds us we are human beings like the rest of our countrymen in this country and it is possible if we let our guard down, if we take it for granted that we’re safe, we could be in the same kind of situation that the rest of our country faces.”
The Christmas tree in front of Honolulu Hale has been lit, he noted, and displays the word “hope,” which represents the light at the end of the tunnel, particularly with COVID-19 vaccines on the way to Hawaii by the third week of December.
Families and members of the same household may pose in front of the tree on marked circles while remaining physically distanced from others, he said. But Caldwell urged Oahu residents to modify their gatherings during the holidays this year.
Caldwell also said he has reached out to Gov. David Ige and wants to sit down with him in person to discuss his post-travel testing request for Oahu.
More than two weeks ago, Caldwell proposed that the state allow travelers who were still awaiting results from COVID-19 tests taken on the U.S. mainland upon entering Hawaii to be allowed to take post-arrival tests at the city’s mobile testing lab at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport as another option.
Travelers without a pre-test that test negative upon arrival and four days later could also be released from quarantine. Caldwell said previously that the city’s mobile lab had enough testing capacity for 10,000 tests per day.
“Oahu, this administration, from March from the lockdown we’re about testing,” he said. “We believe more testing is critical to protecting our community, and what we’re proposing now with visitors is exactly that — a second test for those who arrive with a pretest but no result yet. A second test, we think that’s a double safety check.”
The tests have a rapid turnaround, he added, and are already paid for by federal coronavirus aid funds.
Oahu moved to the less-restrictive Tier 2 of Caldwell’s four-tier economic recovery plan on Oct. 22. The mayor’s office says that to gauge whether Honolulu will move to a different tier, the city takes a “weekly assessment” of two key COVID-19 numbers each Wednesday.
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