Oahu residents will be able to have larger gatherings starting Thursday after Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced Tuesday the island will move to Tier 3 of its reopening strategy, and Gov. David Ige approved the step.
Under the less restrictive level, people will be allowed to dine in groups of up to 10, have funeral services of up to 25 and attend group fitness classes indoors with up to 10 participants. Gym capacity will increase to 50%. Restaurants and spiritual services can operate at full capacity as long as establishments maintain 6-foot distancing.
“We will officially move to Tier 3, and with that comes a really nice relaxation in rules and restrictions that have been imposed on us all these many months,” Blangiardi said. “With that comes a lot of relief.”
Blangiardi plans to submit another request to Gov. David Ige to modify the Tier 3 restrictions to allow for organized sports among other adjustments that have not yet been made public.
The move came after Oahu’s seven-day average of new coronavirus cases remained below 50 for two weeks and its seven-day positivity rate stayed under 2.5%. The metrics do not count infected inmates at correctional facilities.
According to the weekly Hawaii COVID-19 vaccine summary released Monday, 13.6% of the public has received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and 59% of those ages 75 and older has received at least one dose.
Chairman of the Hawaii Restaurant Association Greg Maples praised the move to Tier 3, explaining it would be a “game-changer” for small dine-in restaurants.
“Those restaurants could not open their dining room because 50% (capacity) could have been less than two tables, not enough to open their dining room,” he said.
“This allows them to get into the dining room business again.”
However, Healthcare Association of Hawaii President Hilton Raethel warned Oahu residents to not let infection controls such as social distancing fall to the wayside, despite the loosened restrictions.
“If people remain vigilant in wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, washing their hands, and sign up for vaccination when their turn arrives, we are confident we can remain in Tier 3 without creating an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, and without regressing to Tier 2,” he said.
“We applaud the people of Hawaii for what they have been doing and continue to do, and encourage them not to let their guard down.”
The county has been in Tier 2 of the reopening plan since October.
To move into Tier 4, the final stage of Oahu’s reopening plan, the island’s seven- day average of new COVID-19 cases would need to remain under 20, and its seven-day positivity rate would need to be below 1%.
Tier 4 would allow gatherings of up to 25 people and organized team sports.
However, if the number of new coronavirus cases exceeds 50 or the positivity rate increases to more than 2.5% for two consecutive weeks, Oahu would revert back to Tier 2 for at least four weeks.