LIHU‘E — Beginning Dec. 1, counties in Hawai‘i will no longer need to obtain approval for emergency rules from Gov. David Ige or the director of Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency prior to issuing county orders, rules or proclamations.
This will return full emergency powers back to county leaders.
Ige announced this new phase of state and county COVID-19 safety measures on Tuesday.
“We are at a better place than we were in three months ago, but we are still not finished with the pandemic,” Ige said.
The state will continue its Safe Travels Program, requiring indoor masking as well as vaccinations and testing requirements for state and county employees, contractors and visitors of state facilities.
“Hawai‘i continues to have amongst the lowest rates of infection and fatalities in the nation due to this COVID-19 pandemic,” Ige said.
Changes to county rules are becoming possible because Ige said he would allow a statewide rule governing restaurants, bars, gyms and social gatherings to expire on Nov. 30. The governor said that, after this point, the counties would be responsible for their rules.
Honolulu and Maui counties will allow restaurants and bars to operate at 100% capacity and eliminate a requirement that groups sit 6 feet apart at restaurants as the state eases some restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Kaua‘i County will announce social-gathering rules next week, a county spokesperson said.
“We will continue our program for professionally organized events and limits on social gatherings,” a county spokesperson said in an email. This program requires professionally organized events over 50 to inform the county on their event details at least 10 days prior to the event.
Currently, high-risk businesses — including bars, restaurants and gyms — on Kaua‘i can institute their own COVID-19 vaccination or testing policies for entry to reopen to 100% indoor capacity. Businesses that do not have a program like this are limited to 50% capacity indoors.
“As we head into the holidays, we want to encourage everyone to wear your masks when around others, avoid crowded indoor spaces, take a COVID test three to five days after travel and, of course, get vaccinated if you are able,” the county spokesperson said.
On Nov. 29 the state will also stop its extension on driver’s-license renewals, permits and replacements.
“The nature of this emergency was like no other, and it required a level of federal, state and county coordination that we’ve never before seen,” said Ige.
”I’m grateful for the leadership of our mayors and for the collaboration and close working relationship that we have,” Ige said. “Together, with the people of Hawai‘i, we arrived at this point. But the pandemic is not over. We urge residents to remain vigilant as we continue to protect the health and safety of our kama‘aina, re-energize our economy and strengthen our communities.”
Once signed on Nov. 29, the proclamation relating to COVID-19 will continue through Jan. 28, 2022, unless terminated or superseded by a separate proclamation.
Sabrina Bodon, editor, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.