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Local epidemiologist says Oʻahu's relaxed COVID-19 rules are cautious enough

Sophia McCullough
Hawaii Public Radio

Honolulu is preparing to relax COVID-19 restrictions under growing pressure from the business community as they point to other states allowing large gatherings.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced Friday the city’s plan to allow larger organized events starting Wednesday in response to decreasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The Hawaiʻi Events Coalition, which represents a cross-section of businesses in the live events industry, rallied last week saying professionally managed events could be COVID-safe.

East-West Center epidemiologist Tim Brown, who tends to be cautious, says he is comfortable with the latest plan. In August, he told Hawaiʻi Public Radio that the Delta variant “literally changed the game” because of its high transmissibility.

While he still has concerns, he said he supports Honolulu's new guidelines and thinks they are cautious enough.

"I think they took a comparatively conservative approach to opening up, which I believe is the proper way to do this. Delta is extremely contagious and that means even at the vaccination levels we're at right now, you can still see very, very rapid growth," Brown told Hawaiʻi Public Radio. "So I think we do have to be cautious, we have to monitor this carefully. But I think what they're doing with outdoor events is a step in the right direction."

Brown said it is still important for people to wear masks even if they are vaccinated and especially while indoors.

Oʻahu's vaccination rate for those aged 12 and over stands at 84% percent, according to the state's COVID-19 dashboard.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Oct. 11, 2021.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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