Hawaii counties ease COVID-19 rules at restaurants, bars

November 24, 2021 GMT

HONOLULU (AP) — Most of Hawaii’s counties on Tuesday said they will allow restaurants and bars to operate at 100% capacity and eliminate a requirement that groups sit 6 feet (1.83 meters) apart at restaurants as the state eases some restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But Gov. David Ige said at a news conference with the mayors he will continue to require that travelers from other states show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to avoid 10 days of quarantine when they arrive.

Ige said virus activity continues to be substantial in Hawaii by the standards of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He noted the state has been averaging about 100 new cases per day lately and it wouldn’t take much for those numbers to sharply escalate.

“We are at a better place than we were in three months ago, but we are still not finished with the pandemic,” Ige said.

When asked when he planned to lift a requirement that people wear masks in indoor public places, the governor said healthcare professionals, including state Department of Health Director Dr. Libby Char and State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Kemble, tell him that wearing masks reduces the spread of the virus.

He also relayed that governors from other states told him they regretted dropping mask mandates in their states, as they believed doing so contributed to surges.

“We are seeing surges all across Europe. We’re seeing surges in South Korea, New Zealand and other international destinations. So we do know that when we drop our guards, we can see a surge in cases,” Ige said.

Changes to county rules are becoming possible because Ige said he would allow a statewide rule governing restaurants, bars, gyms and social gatherings to expire on Nov. 30. The governor said after this point, the counties would be responsible for their rules.

Honolulu, Maui and Kauai counties said they wouldn’t impose new rules at restaurants after the statewide guideline goes away, thus allowing restaurants to return to full capacity and for distancing requirements to lapse.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said patrons will be expected to wear masks when they aren’t eating or drinking.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said he would announce new rules in coming days.

Sarah Blane, chief of staff to Kauai County Mayor Derek Kawakami, said she expected Kauai would update its rules on social gatherings next week.