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Mayor Blangiardi hopes to reward Oahu residents for good COVID-19 behavior

                                Mayor Rick Blangiardi held a press conference at HPD headquarters today.
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Mayor Rick Blangiardi held a press conference at HPD headquarters today.

With COVID-19 case numbers on the decline and vaccinations rising among Oahu’s most vulnerable populations, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said today he is ready to “reward” residents for their actions in curtailing the spread of coronavirus on Oahu.

Next Wednesday’s daily COVID data update by the state Department of Health will determine whether Blangiardi moves the city to the less restrictive Tier 3 of its Reopening Framework from the current Tier 2, which has been in effect since Oct. 22.

According to framework guidelines, in order to advance to Tier 3, the seven-day average of new cases must be below 50 on two consecutive Wednesdays and the test positivity rate must be below 2.5%. This week was the first time those metrics were met, with Wednesday’s DOH report showing a seven-day average case count of 33 and a seven-day average positivity rate of 1.2%.

The Health Department today reported 45 new infections on Oahu, with 17 new cases Wednesday, 13 reported on Tuesday, and 25 on Monday.

“We like where we are, we like what the numbers are showing, we are most hopeful we can go to Tier 3,” Blangiardi said today at a 40th anniversary event for CrimeStoppers Honolulu. If that happens, the mayor said he would likely propose relaxing even more restrictions than allowed under the framework established by former Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Blangiardi would not disclose what those proposals would be, saying he would be discussing the matter with Gov. David Ige and DOH Director Dr. Libby Char. The mayor previously said he would like to loosen rules for the hard-hit restaurant industry and for organized youth sports.

Blangiardi said the tier system was developed with the idea that a large segment of the population would have received COVID vaccinations by mid-2021. The state is well ahead of that goal, he said, with many of Oahu’s most vulnerable residents now protected from the virus that has sickened 27,000 statewide and led to 428 deaths.

An estimated 276,603 vaccinations have been administered statewide as of Wednesday, according to preliminary data from the DOH. The agency’s weekly vaccine update released Wednesday indicated that 12.5% of Hawaii’s population has been vaccinated, including more than 55% of residents age 75 and older.

“I think there’s a lot of room here to take a fresh look at what we can do under these circumstances … ,” Blangiardi said. “We want to reward the public. The public is doing exactly what the tier system was set up to do, to encourage, if you will, the kind of behavior-modification program to get people to comply with wearing masks, distancing, washing hands, avoiding large gatherings, and our community is evidently doing that and doing it well. So now the time comes to reward.

“I think we should be very fair-minded about that.”

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