In response to rising COVID-19 cases statewide, Gov. David Ige on Tuesday announced tighter restrictions on social gatherings.
Ige signed an executive order, effective immediately, that limits indoor gatherings to no more than 10 people, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25.
Previously, gatherings were limited to 25 indoors and 75 outdoors.
Some professionally organized events — such as weddings, funerals and some sports — of 50 or more attendees may be permitted with a permit from the host county.
Under the new restrictions, Ige said “high risk” activities such as restaurants, bars, gyms and churches will be limited to 50% indoor capacity. Six feet of distance is required between each group of patrons, and face masks are required unless actively eating or drinking.
Ige said the new requirements are necessary in the face of a ballooning number of coronavirus cases.
The number of daily new cases in the state doubles every seven to 10 days, Ige said, with the last week seeing an average of 500 new cases a day. On Tuesday, 219 people in the state were hospitalized with COVID-19.
By comparison, Ige said, the state was averaging 60 new cases per day a month ago, with only 48 people in the hospital.
“The Delta variant has truly changed the COVID-19 pandemic here in the islands,” Ige said. “We have seen increased transmission, and we must take action in order that our health system is not overwhelmed.”
The executive order will remain in place until Oct. 18, unless superseded by a subsequent order. Ige said it will take at least four to six weeks before the restrictions start to have a significant impact on case counts.
“We are hopeful that, if people do their part and they maintain physical distancing, we can have the case counts drop more quickly than that, but clearly it would be up to all of us as a community to successfully fight against the transmission of COVID-19,” Ige said.
Ige acknowledged that county police departments likely will be unable to respond to every violation of the new restrictions, but was hopeful that they will still be enforced assiduously.
“With our hospitals being overrun, we’re starting to see the need for increased enforcement,” said Mayor Mitch Roth, adding that he has met with Hawaii County police and the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney to discuss enforcement tactics.
For now, however, Ige said that he has no plans to tighten restrictions on travel to the state, or return public schools to an exclusively remote-learning curriculum.
He added that teams of epidemiologists are working to investigate COVID-19 cases within schools to determine whether they constitute an outbreak.
Ige also said his previous benchmark for removing all travel restrictions — in July, he announced that when 70% of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated, all travel restrictions would be terminated — might need to be re-assessed.