Hawaii Governor David Ige extended the state’s coronavirus restrictions for another 2 months while again urging tourists to delay coming to the islands.
Ige’s decision extends until December 1 an emergency order limiting the size of social gatherings, requiring masks to be worn in indoor settings, and other restrictions.
“If we all remain vigilant, and it’s important that we continue to be vigilant in the fight against COVID, to do the things we know work,” Ige said at a news conference. “We know we can have much better holidays as the holiday seasons approach.”
Hawaii has been among the most successful states in getting residents vaccinated. About 68 percent of the total population is vaccinated, a figure that includes children not yet eligible to receive the shot. Among those 12 and older, close to 90 percent are vaccinated.
Ige had said he expects to drop all restrictions when vaccination levels reach 70 percent, but this weekend he said there is no magic number in his mind.
“We have been discussing this for like four to six weeks at this point,” Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “It is a complex question, and certainly the response I got back from the professionals is that they could not see a single metric that would be appropriate to … release restrictions. So we continue to work with the industry to try to see what are the indicators that would help us in guidance.”
Although numbers are starting to drop in the state, high case counts and crowded hospitals continue to concern Ige and state health officials. For that reason, he continues to discourage visitors from coming to the state.
“We saw Delta variant COVID cases increase every week for eight weeks,” State Health Director Libby Char told West Hawaii Today. “In the last two weeks, the Department of Health investigated 46 clusters totaling nearly 1,300 people — people getting infected and then spreading the infection to co-workers or family members. In the month of September, almost 200 of our friends, family and neighbors died of COVID-19.”
Hospital officials are encouraged by the trend but noted the state is nowhere near to being out of the woods.
“We’re only a little over completely full, versus way over completely full, which is certainly an improvement for us,” said Hilo Medical Center CEO Dan Brinkman.
Ige’s decision on Friday extends the state’s Safe Travels program. It allows completely vaccinated visitors to arrive and travel the islands without restrictions. Those who are not vaccinated must show proof of a negative test or quarantine for 10 days upon arrival.
Social gatherings are restricted to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Restaurants, bars, and other businesses are operating at 50 percent capacity, and customers must be seated and not allowed to mingle.