For about five months now, proof of vaccination has been a requirement to dine-in at Oahu restaurants and bars and enter gyms. However, that’ll change soon, as statements from Mayor Rick Blangiardin point to Safe Access Oahu ending on March 5.
Hawaii is in a far better place today than it was a month ago. As of Tuesday, our daily average case count stood at 318, while our test positivity rate is at 3.8%. While these numbers sound great, it’s important to note that the pandemic is still here and, epidemiologically speaking, they aren’t good. In fact, the CDC still classifies Hawaii and the rest of the U.S. as high transmission areas. Despite this, we’ve been seeing pandemic-era restrictions quickly fall around the country. And the same thing is happening – at least to a lesser extent – here in Hawaii.
Safe Access Oahu Ending on March 5
Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s emergency order establishing Safe Access Oahu expires on March 5. While he’s not saying he’s doing away with the program outright, the Myaor did say he plans to let the order lapse. That means, beginning on March 6, proof of vaccination or a recent negative test will no longer be required to dine-in at restaurants or bars or to enter gyms. That said, some local businesses plan to continue to enforce the requirements. In fact, while capacity limits and social distancing requirements mostly went a way a while ago, many restaurants continue to observe them here too.
Maui Ends Safer Outside
Over on the Valley Isle, Maui Mayor Mike Victorino ended their vaccine pass program on Monday, February 21. Those on Maui no longer need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to dine-in. That said, of the two indoor restaurants we went to this past November, only one asked for proof. Maui also no longer imposes capacity limits.
Statewide Mask Mandate
What’s not going away yet is Hawaii’s statewide indoor mask mandate. Governor David Ige has stated that he’s not ready to do away with the mandate yet, leaving Hawaii as the last state to have one in place. It’s a move that many health experts in the islands aplaud, though it remains unpopular with some businesses and visitors. Lt. Gov. Josh Green – who recently announced his run for Governor in 2022 – states that we’ll likely see the mandate go away in March/April. We’ll also likely see Hawaii Safe Travels go away around that time too.
Safe Access Oahu Ending on March 5, Final Thoughts
At this point in time, I’m all for making changes. Personally, I think Hawaii Safe Travels is useless and should go away. The decision to not require a booster dose under the program’s vaccine pass rendered it laughable at best. The money can and should go towards other initiatives like quarantine facilities. That said, I’m not onboard with Safe Access Oahu ending. There’s absolutely no doubt that Omicron is more infectious than any strain we’ve seen up to that point. What’s more, the newer BA.2 variant is even more transmissible. Is now the right time to do away with protocols that help to minimize the spread? Me thinks not.
These decisions are 100% political. And for Lt. Gov. Josh Green to be onboard with these changes – even though he’s a doctor and ridiculed Gov. Ige for not acting faster earlier in the pandemic – is shameful. We already knew Blangiardi was anti safety protocols from the very beginning, so this isn’t surprising. Yet, who are these politicians trying to appease? Hawaii residents are among the most conservative in the nation in dealing with the pandemic. Sure, the deniers will come back out in full force. But more cautious residents will likely retrench even further.
Personally, I haven’t really begun dining out again, especially at indoor venues. And with the end of Safe Access oahu, I may continue to avoid doing so until we get a better grasp on truly what’s going on. Even some local industry groups that benefit from this decision are a little wary.