Mayor Rick Blangiardi is “dead set against” rolling the city’s reopening plan back to Tier 2 as the number of new cases in Honolulu continue to approach the designated limit of a two-week average of 50 new cases a day.
The city’s current weekly average is 59 new cases a day. According the the tier system, if the weekly average of new cases exceeds 50 for more than two weeks, Honolulu should slide back to Tier 2 which allows gatherings of up to five people as opposed to 10 and limits gyms to 25% capacity down from 50% permitted in Tier 3.
According the numbers, Honolulu is expected to hit that threshold that would move it back to Tier 2 on Wednesday. In order for Oahu to stay below the weekly average of 50 cases a day, it would need to have less than 10 new cases a day for the next two days.
However, Blangiardi explained during a press conference today, that when the tier system was created under Mayor Kirk Caldwell, it was designed assuming vaccines would not be available until summer or fall 2021. Instead, the state has administered about 675,000 doses of vaccine.
“I think that our case counts when they were set, was in a very different set of determinations when they constructed the tiers,” he said.
“The tier numbers, when they were constructed before could have been too low. I’ve asked for modifications to Tier 3, to have it be 50 to 100 cases, I think we could stay in that range of positivity rate around (2.5%).”
Blangiardi has been talking to Gov. David Ige about staying in Tier 3, but it is unclear how the decision will be made.
Ige said on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii today that it would be largely left up to Blangiardi to decide whether Honolulu will go back to Tier 2.
However at a press conference later that day he pointed to Oahu’s emergency order that said the city would be triggered to take action by the number of cases. In the order, it says that Oahu will remain in Tier 3 through May 10, 2021, “unless movement to another tier is required earlier by Honolulu’s COVID-19 Reopening Framework with an order effecting that movement,” or it is superseded a different order. Ige explained that the city could choose to ignore the current city order, but that it should instead modify the tier system to give the city more time to explore its options.
“It may be necessary to modify his order so it’s not automatic,” he said.
“Right now, the order was written so that come Wednesday, based on the number of successive Wednesdays, the action would be required.”
If Blangiardi wanted to modify the tier system, he would have to submit a request to the governor’s office, and Ige would need to approve it.
One of Ige’s main concerns is the rise in cases was that could mean that more contagious variants of COVID-19 were being spread.
“What often times gets missed is that with these increasing case counts it does provide more opportunities for variants,” Ige said.
Blangiardi agreed that he could not argue against the risk of variants, but said that it was still “speculative,” and reminded people that he is not an epidemiologist.
He encouraged people to continue to adhere to the Tier 3 rules, wear masks and distance.