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Blangiardi feels energized in mayor’s role; hopes to ease COVID restrictions in February

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Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said about a month into the job, he feels energized to serve in his new position, as well as to the pressure of high expectations and a sense of responsibility as his new leadership team comes together.

In an interview on Spotlight Hawaii this morning, Blangiardi also shared his hopes of being able to ease what is allowed under tier-based restrictions next month.

Blangiardi responded to questions about whether he would relax restrictions in response to bar owners and organizers of youth team sports, which remain closed and are still two tiers away from reopening under the current established framework.

“In conversations I had earlier this week — and again I’m being really candid here — I’m hoping that come middle of February I’m going to be able to relax a couple of things, which is what we’d like to do,” he said during the Spotlight interview. “I very much understand the need to get bars open, to get our kids playing and those kinds of things. I’ve been pushing on that.”

However, Blangiardi said he promised Gov. David Ige and state Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Char the administration would not go rogue.

“We want to be aggressive, but at end of the day, candidly, everything still has to be signed off by the governor,” he said.

At the start of the year, some setbacks included a surge in new cases to a high of 322 on Jan. 7, which health officials attributed to holiday gatherings.

Also, the state Health Department recently confirmed the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 variant L452R in Hawaii — with one case each on Oahu and Maui. The variant has been linked to a growing number of cases and several large outbreaks in California.

Blangiardi said his team decided initially to take a “wait and see” approach, and he is encouraged to see that the numbers are now declining.

The number of new coronavirus infections on Oahu reported by the state Health Department today was 64, bringing the 7-day average to 81. The 7-day positivity rate remains at 3%, keeping Oahu solidly within Tier 2, where it has been since late October.

“The trend has been very solid now for awhile,” he said. “I’ve said all along I’m not going back down to Tier 1; Tier 2, how do we get to Tier 3 and what can we possibly do to those Tier 2 numbers to create some relaxation in opening bars and whatever.”

Under Tier 3, social gatherings of up to 10 would be allowed, up from 5 under Tier 2, and retail business would be able to operate at full capacity, rather than 50% capacity under Tier 2.

Blangiardi said he was also excited to partner with Queen’s Medical Center to offer a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Blaisdell Center, which opened Monday for kupuna ages 75 and up.

“So we’re in a good place right now,” he said. “We’re one of the healthiest places in America.”

Honolulu City Council confirmed a total of 15 cabinet members for the city administration, including managing director Mike Formby, this morning.

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