No change to mask mandate, Safe Travels program in latest COVID emergency proclamation
HONOLULU (KHON2) – Governor David Ige held a press conference on Friday to announce he was extending the COVID emergency declaration through November 30, as part of the state’s delta response.
There are no changes to the statewide mask mandate and Safe Travels program.
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Ige said we are going in the right direction but not enough to lift the restrictions. He adds that there are no clear metrics at this time that will indicate when the restrictions will be lifted.
While key metrics like the number of daily cases and hospital admissions have dropped dramatically, Ige says there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
“I think it’s really important that we’ve made significant progress over the past few weeks in the downtrend, but today, as we speak, the 7-day average of new COVID cases is above 300, which is more than the peak of last summer. surge, ”Ige said. “So viral activity in our community continues to be high.”
At this point, it is unclear what the formula will be for him to remove the restrictions. He says he has discussed it with other experts over the past four to six weeks.
“The response I got from professionals is that they couldn’t see a single measure that would be appropriate to trigger action to restrict, expand or release restrictions,” Ige said.
Thus, sports fans will soon no longer be able to watch any live matches. Ige says any event that draws large crowds is a big risk. He adds that some 650 health professionals in the city continue to help. The director of the health department also said the state had investigated 46 COVID clusters of nearly 1,300 people. Health workers are therefore still at the end of their rope.
“Our brothers and sisters in Public Health and Emergency Management just went through 12 weeks of battle. Please be patient as we allow them to catch their breath, ”said Dr. Libby Char, director of the Hawaii Department of Health.
The Healthcare Association of Hawaii says it supports having a limited number of fans in the stands. But the governor says viral activity remains too high for big events.
“Even if they are vaccinated, we are aware that vaccinated people can be infected,” he said. “They can be asymptomatic and they can carry the virus. “
Ige says he will continue to work with UH to develop a plan to bring fans to the stands that can be safely implemented.
Ige said the extension of his emergency order includes extending the renewal date for expired driver’s licenses and state IDs, which was will expire on Monday, October 4. He did not provide the new deadline.
Since the start of the emergency period in March 2020, the city and county of Honolulu have reported that less than 50,000 driver’s licenses and learner’s licenses remain expired.
Ige also announced that employers are not required to pay for COVID tests for workers who choose to submit to the testing requirements rather than showing proof of vaccination.
This week, the governor met with leaders from different industries who called for an easing of COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines.
“There is no single measure that our healthcare professionals could identify that would be appropriate to trigger actions to increase or decrease the restrictions, or seek further help,” Ige said on Friday.
Current rules limit events to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors until October 19. The suspension of large gatherings has been in place since August 25 as part of Secure access to Oahu, which Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi later renamed the Oahu Safe Response Plan for the extension.
Thusday, Ige met with the leaders of the Hawaii wedding industry to discuss how they can work with him to allow people to get married and keep everyone safe while restrictions are in place. The wedding industry has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, forcing them to shut down several times since 2020.
“This is the point that needs to be emphasized – this is really about trying to separate professional weddings from a social gathering that takes place in someone’s backyard or on a beach, and that’s a little what we’re looking at, “said Monty Pereira, member of the Small Business Advisory Council. . “It’s 10 inside and 25 outside, and that includes the vendors, the bride, the groom, the parents, everyone – so it’s not a lot.”
Pereira said at the meeting, the governor agreed there was a difference between a professionally run wedding and a social gathering. However, he said it would be difficult to tell the two apart. Lt. Gov. Josh Green has hinted that there could be a compromise in two weeks.
On Wednesday, Ige spoke with KHON2 to learn more about the restrictions, including banning fans from University of Hawaii football games. He has been questioned several times on this subject but confirmed that there will be no fans in the stands for the start of the school year on Saturday.
When asked why the fan count was capped at zero when it didn’t apply to schools, malls, restaurants, or any other gathering place, Ige offered this explanation:
“It’s zero because we have more than 250 COVID positive patients in our hospitals. It’s zero because we have over 250 patients in intensive care units. We’re just under maximum capacity, and in the event of a tragic accident or those kinds of things happening, we would have to ration care and decide who gets services and who doesn’t, who we all work to avoid.
On Friday, Ige again stressed his concern that any gathering that draws hundreds or thousands of people, like a football game, could turn into an event that spreads the virus. Even people who have been vaccinated can still catch the virus and be asymptomatic, he added.
Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page
The number of positive coronavirus cases and hospitalizations has fallen by almost 50% over the past week. On Friday, the DOH reported 366 cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths, bringing the state’s total to 79,572 cases. The state has 68% of residents vaccinated.