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Mayor Blangiardi Wants Aggressive, Smart Reopening Amid Increasing Vaccination Rates

Casey Harlow / HPR

Earlier this week, for the first time in months, Oahu parents were able to watch their children play outdoor sports. That’s just one of the adjustments Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has made to the city’s original tiered reopening plan.

Oahu has been in Tier 3 of its reopening plan since February, but with the current seven-day average case count at 62, the city should be in the more restrictive Tier 2.

However, with vaccines widespread and hospitalizations down, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has asked Governor David Ige to stay in the less restrictive tier, and it has been granted.

Blangiardi told a City Council Committee meeting Tuesday that he doesn’t want to throw out the tier system yet, but he is looking ahead.

"We’re looking at that next level now on how that should be articulated and represented to the public because you never want to make a policy that causes people to lie," he said. "So we’re trying to develop that next step as we start to approach, by the end of June, 2 million vaccinations, roughly 1 million people--70% of our population. That was our minimum target."

"That's a very good target and we’re five to six weeks away from hitting that, and so what does that look like and how do we behave?" he said to the committee.

Economic recovery remains a top priority.

The University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization has adjusted its forecast and predicts the state will see more than 6 million visitors this year, and that’s without foreign arrivals. 

“This is all coming from domestic because most global travel has been shut down and we remain this tremendous site to come to because we all know this is a beautiful place we get to live in," Blangiardi said. "Each and every day, in the spirit of our top priority being economic recovery, I look at our movements in the tier system to be absolutely integral to our abilities to get on with our lives.”

Blangiardi said the public should accept the fact that the coronavirus will remain, and there may be hundreds of thousands of people who will not become vaccinated.

“Some of that will be in the youth demographic, age two plus, but there’s going to be a segment of our population that just doesn't believe in the vaccine," he explaind. "As I said earlier, we have a lot of confidence we’ll get to 70% but there's going to be that element and we don't know yet what that's going to look like so we're going to have to be cautious for awhile.”

He said he’s excited at a future that didn’t seem plausible a few months ago.

“I mean we’re happy. It's finally happening after 15 months of an experience none of us could have ever imagined or anticipated and now we’re in that moment in time when we start really going forward," he said.

"I want to do so with aggression but I also want to be smart, and that’s where we’re coming from.”

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