Maui Coronavirus Updates

Hawai‘i’s Health Care System has Stabilized: Easing of COVID-19 Restrictions for O‘ahu

By Wendy Osher
October 8, 2021, 2:49 PM HST
* Updated October 11, 5:47 AM
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Governor David Ige. PC: Office of Gov. Ige. (File Oct. 1, 2021.)

Governor Announces “Easing some restrictions in a very measured way”

Governor David Ige joined Health Care leaders and Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi in announcing the easing of some COVID-19 restrictions on the island of Oʻahu. This includes allowing up to 1,000 attendees for outdoor seated entertainment (including UH football games), 500 attendees for indoor seated entertainment, and more, with safety measures in place.

Gov. Ige said the easing of restrictions is a direct result of the community working together in the best interest of public health and safety, but emphasized that it is not an “all clear,” saying “the pandemic is far from over.”

“The pandemic is far from finished in Hawaiʻi, in the nation, and around the world. Many members of our community–our family members, friends, neighbors and colleagues are still severely iill, still hospitalized, and sadly some are still dying,” said Gov. Ige. “However, from input from our epidemiologists and public health specialists, we continue to determine the amount of risk we can accept in easing some restrictions in a very measured way,” said Gov. Ige.

“For the past 18 months, our Department of Health, our public health partners, the County mayors and I have been focused on protecting the health and well-being of our community during this COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gov. Ige. “To this end we’ve made decisions based on the disease burden in our community, daily new case counts, test positivity rates, resource capacity such as health care staffing, emergency department capacity, oxygen, and the number of available hospital bed and ICU units. And we’ve been successful,” he said.

“If the past few weeks have shown us anything, it’s that preventive measures work. Together we have done better than just about every other state in the nation per capita for limiting COVID illness and death,” said Gov. Ige.

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Gov. Ige said the goal now, is to manage the healthcare and public health infrastructure and the continued presence of COVID-19 with “prudent risk taking,” while building back the economy and a more healthy balance.

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“Our ability to move forward will depend on changes in the virus and more importantly, all of us continuing to do our part to keep our community safe,” said Gov. Ige, noting that the statewide mask mandate indoors remains in place.

The state also has social gathering limits of not more than 10 indoors and 25 outdoors; and the state’s Safe Travels program remains in place.

“We are still requiring state and county workers, and anyone entering state facilities to be fully vaccinated, or tested regularly,” said Gov. Ige.

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“In reality, there is no simple metric that we can use to determine when it’s appropriate to ease restrictions,” he said. “This is a complex equation that requires multiple considerations. Vaccinations is one of them, and we continue to emphasize that the best way out is to get vaccinated.”

To date, 69.3% of the population in Hawaiʻi has completed vaccination, and 77.5% have initiated the process.

Hawaiʻi’s Health Care System has Stabilized

“The health care system has stabilized,” said Gov. Ige. “In general, the number of active cases in the community has dropped from well over 11,000 right before Labor Day to 3,500 today. Case numbers are down significantly from the peak that we saw heading into that Labor Day weekend, when we experienced on average more than 900 new cases each and every day. Our seven day average of new cases is trending downward, and for the first time since late July, has finally dipped below 200. The test positivity rate is also trending downward from a high of almost 8.5% to 3% today. All of these factors and more go into making decisions moving forward,” said Gov. Ige.

“Before the pandemic began, Hawaiʻi’s hospitals frequently had high occupancy rates, and were busy caring for people requiring all types of health care,” said Hilton Raethel, president/CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaiʻi. “The pandemic, and especially the recent COVID surge stretched and stressed Hawaiʻi’s health care resources. We worked with FEMA, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health and HI-EMA to bring in 700 out of state clinical staff to support our hospitals.”

“We had to bring in oxygen from Califorina, and we are very appreciative of the work of Matson and Air Gas to help in that initiative… We deployed tent systems at a number of hospitals, and we took other measures to care for the increase in people needing care, and almost all of those individuals in that increase, approximately 95% who had COVID in the last few months have been unvaccinated,” said Raethel.

In the most recent weeks, the surge in COVID cases has declined. “There are now very encouraging trends,” said Raelthel. “As of today, Oct. 8, we have 143 COVID-positive hospitalized patients across the state–a 67% decrease from the peak of 436 on Sept. 13. Today we have 45 COVID-positive patients in our ICU, a 55% decrease from a peak of 101 on Sept. 2. We have 31 COVID-positive patients on ventilators in our hospitals across the state–a 64% decrease from the peak of 86 on Sept. 3. And our oxygen supplies have stabilized,” said Raethel.

“Given the steady improvement in these numbers over the past few weeks, and the expectation that the numbers will continue to improve, the hospital chief executive officer and chief medical officers are reporting that hospital capacity has normalized,” said Raethel.

“We’ve reached a point where hospital census should no longer be a leading indicator of the need for restrictions. The hospitals’ executive and medical leadership understands that Hawaiʻi’s economy and it’s citizens need to recover from the pandemic, and that there are negative consequences that can and will occur with prolonged restrictions,” said Raethel.

Raethel said that if measures related to masking, testing, and monitoring of cases are maintained, then a trimming back of restrictions can be considered “without undue risk of another surge.”

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi. PC: Office of Gov. David Ige. (File: Sept. 3, 2021)

Honlulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced the easing of restrictions for Oʻahu. Both Blangiardi and Governor David Ige said the relaxing of rules is not an all clear signal.

“We’re at a place right now where I think I want to approach today’s comments with cautious optimism,” said Blangiardi. “This is not an all-clear statement today, but definitely one that we can be optimistic about because we do want to move forward,” he said.

Mayor Blangiardi announced the following updates to COVID restrictions in the City and County of Honolulu:

PC: Mayor Rick Blangiardi

Outdoor seated entertainment: (allowing fans at UH football)
*Starting Oct. 13, 2021

  • 50% venue capacity
  • 1,000 attendees
  • Water only
  • Mitigation plan required
  • All attendees must be vaccinated
  • Masking and physical distancing required

Indoor seated entertainment: (including Stan Sheriffs Center and Wahine Volleyball)
Starting Oct. 20, 2021

  • 50% venue capacity
  • 500 attendees
  • Water only
  • Mitigation plan required
  • All attendees must be vaccinated
  • Masking and physical distancing required.

Outdoor interactive events: (Weddings and Funerals)
*Starting Oct. 20, 2021

  • 50% venue capacity
  • 150 person maximum
  • Food and beverages allowed
  • Mitigation plan required
  • All attendees must be vaccinated
  • Masked mingling allowed
PC: Mayor Rick Blangiardi

Golf Courses:
*Starting Oct. 13, 2021:

  • Tournaments allowed with all participants vaccinated.
  • Dining at the golf club subject to Safe Access Oʻahu requirements

Road Races, Triathlons:
*Starting Oct. 13, 2021:

  • Allowed with all participants vaccinated
  • Maximum 500 participants
  • Staggered groups of 25
  • No post-event gathering (unless falling under allowed event category)

Sale of Liquor
*Effective immediately

  • Permitted again until midnight
  • Establishments remain subject to Safe Access Oʻahu requirements
Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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