Facing a spate of Covid-19 cases putting pressure on hospitals, Hawaii Governor David Ige asked tourists to stay away.
“It’s not a good time to travel to the islands,” he said. “The visitors who choose to come to the island will not have the typical kind of vacation they expect to get when they visit Hawaii.”
The governor’s comments came at a news conference Monday after the island of Oahu said it was imposing stricter restrictions on gatherings.
Beginning Aug. 25, indoor gatherings of more than 10 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people will be banned in Oahu, Mayor Rick Blangiardi said. The new rule will be in effect for at least 28 days and will affect all events, including those hosted professionally, a change from previous restrictions.
“We really thought we saw the light at the end of the tunnel,” Mr Blangiardi said at a news conference. “But in recent weeks, cases have skyrocketed and the Delta variant has proved more than formidable.”
The governor said he fully supported the actions Oahu had taken.
Hawaii has seen a sharp rise in new cases since July 1. The state’s seven-day average of new case reports peaked at 729 per day on Aug. 19, more than double that of the state. previous high last fall, according to a NewsMadura database. In the past two weeks, the number of new cases in Honolulu County has increased by 37 percent and hospitalizations have more than doubled.
mr. Blangiardi said that after extensive talks with state health officials and health care providers, it was determined that large gatherings were the main cause of the rapid spread of communities in recent times.
The restrictions mean athletic events at the University of Hawaii will continue without spectators and major concerts at the Waikiki Shell will be canceled. The mayor said people could still hold weddings, funerals and luaus as long as they stick to the crowds. Restaurants will continue to run at 50 percent capacity and youth sports may end their seasons as long as the parents disperse as spectators.
Hawaii was the last state to expand vaccine eligibility to all adults. About 55 percent of the state population has been fully vaccinated to date.
At Monday’s press conference, officials said they were concerned about Oahu’s low vaccination coverage and the large number of young men and women with Covid-19 being treated in the island’s intensive care units.
dr. James Ireland, the head of Honolulu Emergency Medical Services, said in recent weeks, island hospitals had seen a net increase of 10 to 14 patients per day. He warned that hospitals would not be able to care for any more patients “very, very soon” and that emergency services were close to “maximum”.
Although Oahu acted to curb large gatherings, which appear to be fueling the current spread, officials stressed that vaccination was the best way to fight the virus. According to the Hawaii Department of Health, the highly contagious Delta variant, which is more dangerous for those unvaccinated, is now responsible for 93 percent of Covid-19 infections in the state.
“That’s the way out of here,” said Dr. Ireland. “Vaccinations.”