Larger gatherings could be allowed by July

  • TAKEMOTO

  • Visitors flock to La‘aloa Beach Park on March 20. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

A Hawaii County official said Wednesday that the county has tentative plans to loosen restrictions on crowd sizes beginning in July.

Managing Director Roy Takemoto appeared at Wednesday’s meeting of the County Council Committee on Governmental Relations and Economic Development to discuss upcoming plans and projects from the mayor’s office.

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Among the upcoming projects discussed were nascent plans to remove further COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic continues to diminish. In particular, those plans include increasing the maximum allowable gathering size, which is currently capped at 10.

Takemoto said the mayor’s office is discussing increasing the maximum number of people allowed to gather to 50 beginning in July, and again to 100 beginning in August.

Increasing the number of people allowed to gather at once would be a boon to many businesses struggling under COVID-19 restrictions, including restaurants and theaters, which were allowed to reopen as of June 1, but with attendance restrictions.

Takemoto also discussed in his presentation the need to stimulate the county’s economic recovery as restrictions loosen, in particular pointing to the need to encourage food production and public housing initiatives.

Priority projects for the county include previously existing projects such as the Hilo Bayfront Trails and the cesspool replacement pilot program in Puako, Takemoto said, as well as greater-scope projects such as the continued recovery of lower Puna following the 2018 Kilauea volcano eruption.

Council members seemed generally encouraged by Takemoto’s presentation.

Puna Councilwoman and committee Chairwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz said the county needs to be forward-thinking in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

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“I don’t want us to bounce back to where we were before COVID, because I didn’t like where we were before,” Kierkiewicz said. “We need to be able to bounce ahead to something better.”

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.