'Vaccine Pass' programs are set to start next week on the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Maui, which will require anyone entering several sorts of indoor establishments to show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. The new community restrictions come only a couple of weeks after Oahu and Maui mayors submitted their requests for stricter mandates to Governor David Ige amid the state's current surge of COVID-19 infection.
Hawaii has already seen more than three times as many COVID-19 cases this year than it had during all of 2020, Johns Hopkins University data shows. As of this afternoon, the state is reporting 69,144 confirmed cases, while its entire case count for 2020 came to 22,007, according to USA Today. Fueled by the highly infectious Delta variant, the Aloha State has seen more cases in the last month alone than it did during the entirety of last year.
Beginning September 13, patrons of such venues as restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, museums, arcades and various other indoor establishments in Honolulu county must show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test performed within the previous 48 hours. Again, children under the age of 12-who are currently ineligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines anyway-are exempt from this restriction.
At the same time, restaurants and other public establishments on Oahu will remain subject to their current capacity restrictions. The new provisions outlined under the island's 'Safe Access Oahu' program will last at least 60 days.
Honolulu County Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced strict new rules for restaurants, bars, museums and other establishments. In Honolulu, customers must show vaccine proof or a negative COVID test to enter the establishments. Takeout is excluded.
In a prior announcement about the imminent restrictions, Blangiardi said, "I really want this to come off as a common-sense appeal," Hawaii News Now reported. He continued, "This is about public health-with numbers like nothing we've seen before. We're begging, begging people to get vaccinated and anywhere we can enforce it we will."
The mayor said that the program's inclusion of a testing option was important to minimize the new measure's economic impact on local businesses, which have been struggling throughout the pandemic. As part of a previous announcement, Blangiardi explained, "We are trying to rebuild. We don't want a lockdown."
At a September 7 press conference, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino announced the creation of a new emergency order that's set to take effect September 15, which restricts access to indoor areas of bars and restaurants to patrons who can provide proof of vaccination. Children under the age of 12, however, are exempt from this requirement.
Victorino said that, unlike Oahu, Maui opted not to offer patrons a negative COVID-19 test option because people don't plan their evenings out according to a test-taking schedule. According to Travel Awaits, "Anyone who can't show proof of vaccination can eat outside if that establishment has outside seating. Or, they can get takeout," the mayor explained.
As part of the new order, bars and restaurants will be required to close by 10:00 p.m., starting September 15. Also, capacity restrictions on many types of tourism activities will be tightened. Group sizes for tours and excursions, such as snorkeling tours, fishing expeditions and sunset sails, will be restricted to only 50 percent capacity, as opposed to the current limit of 75 percent. The same capacity caps will also apply to ground transportation providers.
This latest set of mandates will remain in place for at least 30 days, the mayor said. "If the (COVID case) numbers don't come down over the next 30 days, we may have to implement stricter rules and stricter mandates," Victorino cautioned.
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