Oahu could be moving to Tier 4 of its reopening plan in a few days, pending Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s submission of a proposal for Gov. David Ige’s approval.
Blangiardi made the announcement about the possible shift to Tier 4 Tuesday, during the governor’s press conference, announcing relaxed mask rules for people outdoors.
“We anticipate moving into Tier 4 in Honolulu, and with that will come with some additional relaxations,” Blangiardi said, adding that the change could come “in just a few days.”
“We’re going to make some recommendations, and then we leave it up to the Department of Health to make the final determinations.”
Tier 4 as written would allow gatherings of 25 people and open the possibility of night clubs to operate under special restrictions and requirements. This is a relaxation from the current restrictions under Tier 3 that allow gatherings of up to 10 people and completely prohibit nightlife establishments.
According to the city’s reopening website, Oahu will stay in Tier 3 until at least June 2nd.
However, Blangiardi is working on a proposal to modify some of the restrictions under Tier 4, but did not include specifically what activities allowed in Tier 4 he would be adjusting.
Another part of the changes Blangiardi is hoping to make to Tier 4 is adjustments to the metrics that would dictate when the city moves between tiers. He wants the tiers to be based on the percentage of the population that is vaccinated.
If approved by Ige, the new metrics would move Honolulu to Tier 4 when the percent of vaccinated Oahu residents reaches about 50.
That would change the current metrics which would require the seven-day average new case count to remain below 20 and the island’s seven-day positivity rate to stay under 1% for two weeks to move the city to Tier 4.
Healthcare Association President Hilton Raethel explained that although the lowest percentage of herd immunity — when enough people are vaccinated to significantly reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading — is 70%, that could mean 70% of those who are eligible to take the vaccine, not total number of residents on Oahu.
“Right now, the eligible population is individuals 12 and above,” he said.
“You’ve got about 18%, that are zero to 11, so you’ve got 18% of the population that are not eligible for the vaccine.”
Although children under the age of 12 are still susceptible to COVID-19, the chances of the younger population being hospitalized or dying from the virus are drastically lower than the older and more vulnerable population.
“For that 82% of the population that is eligible for the vaccine, we’re doing very well with getting them vaccinated,” Raethel said.
“We’re getting pretty close to having 70% of that eligible population vaccinated.”
Based on the number of shots administered on Tuesday, Hilton estimated that the state is about 120,000 doses short of reaching the 70% threshold for those eligible for the vaccine.
In one day, about 6,700 doses were administered statewide between Tuesday and Wednesday.
Blangiardi has not yet submitted his proposal to the governor for the changes to Tier 4. Both are still discussing the details of the proposal and Blangiardi will submit the letter when it is agreed upon.
Generally, Blangiardi explained that the city does not normally submit the proposal to move to the next tier unless the metrics to do so have been met. As of Wednesday, 42% of Oahu’s total population has been fully vaccinated.