Hawaii’s journey guidelines are ending, however restrictions on different companies stay
July 9, 2021
Hawaii is getting one step closer to reopening its economy Thursday by letting tourists bypass COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements by showing proof of vaccination, but numerous companies are still suffering from restrictions designed to stop the virus from spreading.
Hawaii is now the only state that still has such restrictions, the Associated Press reported this week. While the state’s COVID-19 liaison officer, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said that could change early next month, Governor David Ige has shown no sign of changing his plan, which calls for restrictions to be lifted only when 70% of the population is vaccinated.
Meanwhile, although the hospitality industry is fully open and has recovered significantly, fueled by a daily average of more than 32,000 passenger arrivals per day this month, some industries remain hampered by restrictions that limit things like the size of gatherings and social distancing Requirement. The recent change in travel rules, which goes into effect today, is expected to give tourism a further boost, even if some shops serving tourists cannot fully reopen.
Restaurants, for example, can still only use 75% of their seating capacity, and they are relatively lucky. Things like special events face greater stress. It’s not just capacity limits, tests, and social distancing rules that are an issue, event managers say, but also the difficulty of planning events months into the future when the rules might change.
“The events will be much smaller,” said Denise Hayashi Yamaguchi, founder and executive director of the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival. The problem: Although the restrictions could be lifted by October when the festival takes place, Yamaguchi said she couldn’t rely on them.
“We’ll use today’s rules to do what we’re doing in October,” she said.
Concert promoter Jonny Mack has spent years building a music festival in Hawaii, but even as the economy reopens, this year’s event is in jeopardy due to COVID-19 restrictions and other factors. Cory Lum / Civil Beat / 2021
The result: a posh event that typically hosts 7,500 over three weeks, including thousands of well-heeled travelers, will now host about a third of that, Yamaguchi said.
And with other organizers it looks even worse. Concert promoter Jonny Mack has been producing major events in Hawaii as a partner of the Dream Weekend Hawaii Music Festival, the Hallow-Baloo Music and Arts Festival in Chinatown and the New Year’s event in the Aloha Tower since 2012.
Mack envisions making Dream Weekend a one-of-a-kind Hawaiian destination, and to do that, he’s invited big stars like Usher, Marshmello, and Snoop Dog to play at Aloha Stadium. But this year, even though Hawaii emerged from the pandemic, the event is in the air.
First, Mack said there was an issue with the use of the Aloha Stadium, which was unable to conduct the necessary feasibility studies during the pandemic. That means there isn’t a venue on the islands with the capacity of 30,000 people required to cover expenses, including hiring an army of drivers, security guards and technicians, as well as the performers.
Current restrictions on large outdoor events only allow 33% of the venue’s capacity to be used, he said, but that rises to 67% when attendees are vaccinated. It is still difficult to make a profit on this condition, said Mack. So the question is whether to wait and risk all of the big names being snapped up by competitors, or move forward amid uncertainties.
“Promotion is already a high-risk, educated game of chance,” he said. “Now you are adding so many additional factors to a dynamic situation.”
Lt. Gov. Josh Green, speaking to Civil Beat reporters on Zoom here in February, is pushing for all COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted next month.
Mack served as Hawaii’s representative for the National Independent Venue Association, which successfully lobbied Congress to support entertainment venues through a Small Business Association scholarship program under the American Rescue Plan. About 30 local businesses have raised approximately $ 20 to 30 million from the program, he said.
However, his bigger idea of creating a one-of-a-kind music festival for Hawaii is on hold.
“Nobody created a travel destination for Hawaii,” he said. “And that was the vision – to create a travel destination that could put Hawaii on the map.”
Green said there was no reason not to lift restrictions on events where people were vaccinated.
“When people are vaccinated, there is no reason not to allow them to attend large events,” he said. “That’s the point of vaccination. It allows you to get back to normal.”
At the same time, he said he would stand up for Ige to lift the restrictions completely when the governor’s current emergency proclamation expires on August 6.
“It’s definitely a possibility, but it will be a governor’s responsibility,” said Green.
Still, Green set out his reasons for lifting the restrictions on August 6th.
By then, 65% of the Hawaiian population should be vaccinated. Add another 5% of the population infected with COVID-19 and recovered, and that equates to 70% of the vaccinated population, Green said.
“Having the disease is like having a vaccination,” he said, although he added that researchers generally do not know how long an exposed person will be protected from the virus.
However, Green said it was far from clear how long it could take another 5% of the population to be injected with vaccines into the arms, as Ige wishes, before lifting restrictions.
“It can take a long time to get to the top 70%,” he said.
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