Hawaii is reinstating capacity limits on restaurants and bars in addition to other restrictions in an effort to slow spiking coronavirus cases in the state.
Governor David Ige imposed the new rules via executive order on Tuesday in an effort to combat the healthcare crisis.
“The Delta variant has changed the course of the pandemic in Hawaii. We are seeing (daily) case numbers in the 600s – the highest numbers we’ve seen since this pandemic began,” Ige said in a statement. “This requires immediate and serious attention to avert unmanageable strains on our healthcare system and other catastrophic impacts to the state.”
Among other things, the executive order requires:
- Restaurants, bars, gyms, churches, and other social establishments must reduce capacity by 50 percent.
- Social gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors.
- Customers in restaurants and bars must remain seated with parties maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between groups, with no mingling.
- Masks must be worn at all times except when actively eating or drinking.
- Anyone planning a wedding, banquet, convention, or similar activity with more than 50 people must submit safety plans to the respective county for approval.
“We need to take action, and we need to take action now,” Ige said at a news conference where he announced that the rules will go into effect immediately, and will run until at least October 18.
Healthcare officials joined Ige at the news conference and sounded the alarm about the current strain on hospitals in the state.
Jason Chang, chief operating officer of The Queen’s Health Systems and president of The Queen’s Medical Center, said the number of patients in his facility is nearing last year’s peak and rising rapidly.
“It is scary because our projections are that it’s going to be much more, much higher, because we never lived through a day where we had 600 additional new cases, followed up by three additional days that had 600 new cases,” Chang said. “So we are preparing for the worst.”
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the number of hospitalized patients could double in the next 2 to 3 weeks. He also noted that 92.3 percent of the patients are not vaccinated, and that more than half are under the age of 50.
“People think it was just old people, our kupuna, that were getting sick and coming to the hospital,” Green said. “That is not correct any longer. It is a younger disease now.”
County mayors expressed support for the executive order, saying the state is in a crisis situation.
“What we’re seeing now with our hospitals is unacceptable,” Hawaii County Mayor Roth told Hawaii News Now. “All of our hospitals are at capacity. Some of our hospitals are over capacity, so these are steps that have to be taken to keep our community safe and healthy.”
“We’re not where we were just a couple weeks ago,” added Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “We’re in a very different place. It’s very aggressive and everybody needs to wake up, pay attention and do the responsible thing and please get vaccinated.”