The first domino of the COVID-19 Delta variant surge has fallen in Hawaii.
Today, in light of the rising case numbers, Governor David Ige announced a new round of restrictions that will impact restaurant capacities, social gatherings, and ultimately, travel around the islands.
“The delta variant has truly changed the COVID-19 pandemic here in the islands,” Ige said. “We have seen increased transmission and we must take action in order that our health system is not overwhelmed.”
The new restrictions, which are effective immediately, include the following:
- Indoor social gatherings are limited to 10 people.
- Outdoor social gatherings are limited to 25 people.
- Bars, restaurants, and gyms must adhere to a 50% indoor capacity. Patrons can only sit with their personal parties and there must be 6 feet of distance between groups. “Mingling” is not allowed and masks must be worn when not eating or drinking.
Governor Ige said that there would be no changes to the Hawaii Safe Travels program. Currently, U.S. residents with proof of vaccination face no restrictions in traveling to and within Hawaii.
“We are evaluating the Safe Travels program, but we would note that the number of cases from visitors is relatively low, it’s 1 or 2%,” Ige said.
Travelers will still be affected by the new rules, however, when it comes to things like tour group capacities, nightlife, and dining out. Wait times at restaurants have been extremely long most of the summer, and reservations competitive. That trend seems poised to continue or worsen as restaurants will need to reduce the number of tables.
Of course, the local residents will bear the brunt of the burden. Many have expressed their displeasure with the new restrictions on social media, mostly in light of the fact that the restrictions don’t address the number of tourists arriving or the capacity of airplanes or hotels.
“Why is it ok for the airlines to have everyone in the plane seat next to each other with no six feet social distancing on the plane and even at the airports and yet, us locals need to stay indoors and now gatherings are 10 people or less?” one user lamented.
As for how long the restrictions will last, there’s no firm timetable – only estimates.
“We anticipate that it would be four to six weeks to see a significant reduction in the case counts that we are seeing,” Ige said. “We are hopeful that if people do their part and they maintain physical distancing, we can have the case counts drop more quickly than that, but clearly it would be up to all of us as a community to successfully fight against the transmission of COVID-19.”