Closer to normal: County confirms restaurants, bars can operate at full capacity

Hawaii County officials confirmed Wednesday that Mayor Mitch Roth’s most recent emergency rule permits restaurants, bars, gyms and spas to operate at full capacity, with COVID-19 mitigation measures in place.

Emergency Rule No. 19, signed Tuesday by Roth who was unavailable for follow-up interviews that day, increased indoor and outdoor gathering sizes, capacity of indoor and outdoor recreational areas and expanded capacity of restaurants. The rule did not specifically note whether restaurants and bars could operate at full capacity, but did remove a requirement that there be 6-foot distance between individuals or groups and a prohibition of groups larger than 10.


On Wednesday, the county provided clarification regarding business establishments.

According to Cyrus Johnasen, spokesman, full capacity of restaurants and bars is permitted “pending the discretion of the owners and management, as well as other mitigation measures in place.” The same goes gyms and spas, though COVID-19 mitigation measures such as sanization and masks are still needed.

While gathering sizes and capacity for indoor and outdoor recreational areas were increased, Roth’s rules do not impact state facilities, including Department of Education-sanctioned sporting events.

“Unfortunately, Mayor’s rules do not impact the decisions of the DOE and private institutions. However, we are more than willing to work with the DOE, BIIF, and UHH for sporting events at county facilities to ensure that we can accommodate crowds to whichever capacity is requested,” Johnasen said.

Roth’s issuance of Emergency Rule 19 comes as the newest COVID-19 variant, omicron, continues to spread across the globe. The first case of the omciron variant in the U.S, was confirmed Wednesday in California in a traveler returning from South Africa.

“As of now, the rules we have in place are there because we have found them to be effective measures at stopping the spread over the past year. We know masks, sanitization, other mitigation measures have worked against the variants we’ve seen thus far and we think that omicron should be no different, though we are waiting to see its efficacy and lethality moving forward. The CDC has mentioned that it will take a few weeks before we have a firm grasp on the variant and its capabilities,” Johnasen said.

The county will be monitoring the situation and could make changes to the rules if necessary. The rule signed Tuesday is dated to expire Jan. 28, 2022.

“Hospital capacity is certainly a huge factor for us. If there is a surge again that results in hospital and medical resource overflow, then stricter rules could be put in place,” ICUs, ventilators, and hospital beds remain the best indicators of public health on our end. We also take into account the “burnout” of staff at the hospitals and our other frontline workers, as their health and safety is also an important factor for providing adequate healthcare for our community.

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