Aug. 24, 2021 -- Hawaii is discouraging travelers from visiting the state as COVID-19 cases surge due to the Delta variant, straining hospitals and health care workers.
Gov. David Ige asked tourists to stay away and advised residents to limit travel to essential businesses through the end of October.
“Now is not a good time to visit Hawaii,” he said on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s livestream program on Monday. “The visitors who choose to come to the island will not have the typical kind of holiday that they expect to get when they visit Hawaii.”
Ige’s remarks came on the same day that the island of Oahu announced new restrictions. Starting Wednesday, indoor gatherings of more than 10 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people will be prohibited. The new rule will remain in place for at least 4 weeks and will affect all events, including ones that are professionally organized such as trade shows, conventions, and concerts.
“We really thought we saw the light at the end of the tunnel, but over the last several weeks, cases have surged and the Delta variant has proved to be more than formidable,” Rick Blangiardi, Oahu’s mayor, said during a news conference on Monday.
Since the beginning of July, Hawaii has seen a jump in new COVID-19 cases. The state’s 7-day average peaked at 729 new cases per day on Aug. 19, doubling the previous peak last fall, according to The New York Times. During the past 2 weeks, new cases have increased by 37%, marking an all-time high with more than 9,300 active COVID-19 cases.
Blangiardi said he had thorough talks with state and local health officials and health care providers, and they found that large gatherings have led to the rapid increase in cases. Ige also said he supported the new restrictions in Oahu.
Under the new limits, athletic events will continue but not have spectators, and large concerts will be canceled. Weddings and funerals must adhere to gathering limits, and restaurants will operate at 50% capacity.
During Monday’s livestream, Ige expressed concerns about low vaccination rates and the large number of younger patients in Hawaii’s hospitals. During the past 2 weeks, hospitalizations have more than doubled, and hospitals are beginning to run out of beds for patients.
“Another shutdown is really the last resort,” he said. “And it would be at the point the hospitals say they absolutely cannot take any more patients and we really have to take further action.”