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Oahu likely to slide back to Tier 2 this week amid rise in COVID-19 cases

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Although still far below pre-pandemic levels, visitors have been returning to Waikiki in greater numbers in recent weeks. Pedestrians filled a crosswalk Saturday at Kalakaua Avenue near the International Market Place.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Although still far below pre-pandemic levels, visitors have been returning to Waikiki in greater numbers in recent weeks. Pedestrians filled a crosswalk Saturday at Kalakaua Avenue near the International Market Place.

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Mayor Rick Blangiardi will likely have a tough decision to make this week when the Wednesday COVID-19 numbers are reported for Oahu.

That’s because the city will take its official weekly count of new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday to determine whether Oahu remains in Tier 3, where 10 people are allowed to gather, or moves back to Tier 2, where only five people can gather.

On Wednesday the key number was 58. That was the seven-day average case count. If the count is 50 or more this Wednesday, the rules would say Oahu has to move back to Tier 2.

On Sunday the seven-day average was 59. On Saturday it was 61. With only three more days to count, it’s not looking good.

It will be up to Blangiardi to decide whether the city moves to Tier 2 or if he asks the governor for a change in the rules. The tier system was established in September by former Mayor Kirk Caldwell and approved by Gov. David Ige.

The city rules state, “If we meet a previous tier’s average daily case count for two weeks in a row, we will move back to a previous tier. For example, if we are in Tier 2, but we meet Tier 1’s average case count for two weeks in a row, we will revert back to Tier 1 for at least four weeks. The test positivity rate is not a metric used to move back.”

Oahu moved to Tier 3 on Feb. 25 after being stuck in Tier 2 since Oct. 22.

Reverting to Tier 2 means social gatherings would be limited to five people, down from 10; restaurants could seat only five people at one table and use only 50% of their indoor capacity; spiritual services would be limited to 50% capacity; funerals would be limited to 10 people; weddings, only five; and gyms would be limited to 25% of capacity.

The case count has been climbing since the beginning of March. For a short time it looked like Oahu might make it to Tier 4, the least restrictive level.

The disheartening news is that if the city moves to Tier 2, it has to stay there for at least four weeks, under the current rules. The earliest the city could move back to Tier 3 would be May 6.

Meanwhile, state Department of Health officials Sunday reported 96 new coronavirus infections in Hawaii, bringing the state’s total since the start of the pandemic to 30,135 cases.

State health officials reported no new coronavirus-related deaths as the statewide death toll remained at 467.

Sunday’s new statewide infection cases include 51 on Oahu, 26 on Maui, 15 on the Big Island and four Hawaii residents diagnosed outside the state, according to health officials.

The statistics released Sunday reflect the new infection cases reported to the department Friday.

Health officials counted 6,087 new COVID-19 test results in Sunday’s tally, for a 1.5% statewide positivity rate. The state’s seven-day average positivity rate is 1.8%, according to the Hawaii COVID-19 Data dashboard.

The state’s Hawaii COVID-19 vaccine summary said 634,442 vaccines have been administered of the 717,980 received by the state as of Wednesday. About 28% of the general population in Hawaii has received at least one dose of the vaccine.


This breaking news story will be updated as more information becomes available.


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