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COVID-19 rules confuse some as Oahu moves toward full reopening

  • GEORGE F. LEE / OCT. 23
                                Under Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s loosened <a href="https://www.staradvertiser.com/coronavirus" target="_blank">COVID-19</a> restrictions, food and beverages will be banned at events like football games but movie theaters can continue with soda and popcorn concessions. The student section at T.C. Ching Field had some fans Saturday, for the first time this season, during the University of Hawaii’s game against New Mexico State.

    GEORGE F. LEE / OCT. 23

    Under Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s loosened COVID-19 restrictions, food and beverages will be banned at events like football games but movie theaters can continue with soda and popcorn concessions. The student section at T.C. Ching Field had some fans Saturday, for the first time this season, during the University of Hawaii’s game against New Mexico State.

As Oahu begins to prepare for large events to resume following Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s announcement to loosen COVID-19 restrictions, food and beverages will be banned at events like football games even as movie theaters continue with soda and popcorn concessions.

According to the new rules, starting on Nov. 3 there can be full capacity at large outdoor and indoor seated events where everyone in attendance must be vaccinated — but only water can be served.

Large indoor interactive events, such as concerts, can be held at 50% venue capacity (or 150 vaccinated people maximum), food and beverages allowed.

Functions categorized as outdoor interactive events, such as weddings, luaus and funerals, can have 500 maximum in attendance and full vaccination is required — food and drinks allowed.

Movie theaters, in the mayor’s proclamation, are categorized as a “covered premises” along with bars and restaurants, and restricted to 50% capacity and parties of no more than 10 people. Movie theaters, like restaurants, fall under Safe Access Oahu and patrons are required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the last 48 hours. The city plans to extend those mandates through the end of the year.

Figuring out COVID-19 rules and restrictions, including the latest directives on food and beverages, can be daunting.

According to the city, it’s all about capacity.

The reasoning behind banning food and drinks at large outdoor and indoor seated events is the high capacity being allowed at those venues compared to the interactive event venues, explained city spokesperson Tim Sakahara.

“A venue … they would be like the stadiums, would be able to go to full capacity without the physical distancing requirements, but to be safe, at this point at least, the food and beverages were restricted to just water only,” he said.

“Whereas the interactive events like the weddings, or funerals per se, are capped … and those are also at the smaller venues as well that can’t have the 9,000 people or what have you.”

The trade off is the amount of people allowed in the venue in order to serve food or drinks.

And capacity rules for large events will change again on Nov. 24.

At interactive indoor events, the limit will increase to 300 vaccinated people maximum. Outdoor interactive events will be allowed to operate at full capacity. The city will allow food and drinks to be served at both indoor and outdoor interactive events.

Sakahara explained that the reasoning holds for when outdoor interactive events move to full capacity on Nov. 24 because the outdoor venues that accomodate interactive events will still be smaller than the outdoor venues that accomodate seated events.

“I don’t think anyone is planning a wedding for like T.C. Ching field, looking to fill up the stands there for their their nuptials,” he said.

“It’s just a different type of venue.”

Sakahara emphasized that full capacity does not mean unlimited amounts of people, and businesses will need to abide by their required COVID-19 mitigation plans and venue capacity limits.

Venues should also decide which type of events they would like to host while the restrictions are in place. For example, a venue should not be acting as a seated outdoor venue one weekend, and the next weekend become an interactive outdoor venue.

“The business should stick with their decision, at least through the end of this year, for the next couple of months,” Sakahara said.

“None of this is intended to be permanent. We’re not going to live … like this forever.”

There is not yet a timeframe for when concessions would be allowed to be sold at a seated outdoor event, but it is the city’s intention to allow that when it is safe.

Under Safe Access Oahu, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the last 48 hours are required of patrons. The city plans to extend those mandates through the end of the year.

However, the large events that will resume on Nov. 3, are not under the Safe Access Oahu program and patrons will be required to be vaccinated. The option for a negative COVID-19 test instead will not be available.

Blangiardi explained during his announcement on Wednesday that this is so that people will feel as safe as possible.

“I don’t know how else we can tell people that they’re safe. Testing simply means you’re not sick yet,” he said.

“We want to be able to ease into it, and do it that way.”

The city is still waiting to hear from Gov. David Ige if bars, restaurants and gyms will be allowed to expand capacity beyond 50%. However, Blangiardi did expand operating hours for establishments to as late as their permits and licenses allow beginning Nov. 3.

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