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Oahu to Stay in Tier 3 for Four More Weeks

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Casey Harlow / HPR
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HONOLULU — New confirmed coronavirus infections have surpassed a threshold that calls for increased restrictions on Oahu, but Honolulu's mayor wants to change the parameters of its tiered system to allow gatherings and businesses to stay open. The City will stay in its current tier for an additional four weeks, but thye mayor is still pursuing modified metrics for Honolulu's tier system.

Under the system established by former Mayor Kirk Caldwell, when the number of new COVID-19 cases exceeds a two-week average of 50 per day, Oahu should revert to a tougher tier of restrictions, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

Though that threshold was met several weeks ago, Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Gov. David Ige have agreed to wait to see what happens to the infection numbers as more people get vaccinated.

Blangiardi submitted a proposal this week to permanently modify the tiered system. While the mayor waits for Ige to review the plan, Oahu will remain in tier three of a system where tier one is the most restrictive and four is the least.

In a statement from mayor's administration released Thursday, Mayor Blangiardi and Governor Ige agreed that the City and County of Honolulu would remain in Tier 3 for anothe four weeks while the county and the state work together on incorporating vaccination counts on Oahu into modified metrics for the Tier system. 

Tier three allows social gatherings of up to 10 people, bars and restaurants to seat groups of 10 people, and gyms to operate at 50% capacity. Outdoor weddings of up to 100 people are allowed, and outdoor sports can resume.

Exact details of the new proposal were not released, but Blangiardi previously said he wants to expand the daily infection counts for tier three to allow a two-week average of 50 to 100 cases or possibly 120.

Blangiardi said he believes vaccinations need to be considered and that the metrics should look more closely at hospitalizations and deaths, not just infections.

"We wouldn't suddenly go back to normal," Blangiardi told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "We would absent the tier myopia looking at case counts, (instead) keeping the metrics on deaths and acute hospital care and wanting that to remain down."

Healthcare Association of Hawaii President Hilton Rae­thel agreed with the potential case count change but said using hospitalizations or deaths as an indicator is problematic.

"It doesn't give you as accurate or as timely a window into what is going on in the community because of the lag between infections and hospitalizations," Rae­thel said. "If the hospitalizations all of a sudden go up, that means that three weeks ago, four weeks ago, there was a very good chance that there was a significant rise in infections."

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