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Indoor, Outdoor Gatherings Reduced to 10 as County Battles Surging COVID Cases

By Tiffany DeMasters
August 27, 2021, 10:54 AM HST
* Updated August 27, 10:55 AM
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Outdoor and indoor gatherings have been restricted to 10 people effective immediately, in an effort to slow the surge of COVID-19 cases and ease the inundation of patients at Big Island hospitals.

This morning, Mayor Mitch Roth held a press conference where he discussed Emergency Rule 17, which limits gathering sizes as well as ramping up enforcement efforts to cite those violating the new restriction.

Click here to read Emergency Rule 17 and all its restrictions

Those in violation of the gathering restrictions will face a $250 fine. Anyone caught breaking quarantine will receive a $5,000 fine.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a dramatic increase of COVID cases on our island,” Roth said. “The Delta variant has swept through our community and inundated our hospitals.”

Last week, Roth visited hospitals islandwide. After talking with health care workers, the mayor said the resounding message was theyʻve reached capacity. Currently, there are 57 hospital beds occupied by COVID patients.

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“We’ve reached a tipping point to adequately care for non-COVID traumatic patients,” Roth said.

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In July, Gov. David Ige rolled back gathering sizes statewide from 10 to 25 indoors and 25 to 75 outdoors. However, the governor reinstated gathering restrictions earlier this month to 10 indoors and 25 outdoors.

Ige granted approval for the 10-person gathering sizes for the Big Island only.

Roth said there are steps the community can take to keep each other safe.

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“At this point, we’ve reached community spread,” he said. “We need to continue to do the little things to keep our community safe.”

Roth encouraged everyone to do whatʻs best them and their ʻohana by not only limiting gatherings but taking care of their immune system, staying when sick and wearing a mask in public.

“The sooner we can beat this virus the sooner we can get back to doing the things we love to do,” Roth said.

Beach parks will remain open. Department of Parks and Recreation Director Maurice Messina said groups of 10 will be allowed to congregate on the beach with the groups 20 feet apart.

However, canopies and pop-up tents will be prohibited at the parks. Messina said all permits will be rescinded as they were for larger gathering sizes.

The pod of 10 extends to sporting fields. Pavilion rentals have also been canceled.

Swimming pools will remain open for lap swims, however, Messina said they are pausing team swims.

The Panaewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens will remain open. Face covering will be required. The pavilion, playground and petting zoo are closed.

“With these hard measures, we think we can get past this,” Messina said.

Roth is waiting to hear back from Ige regarding his request to reinstate pre-travel testing for every visitor arriving in the Hawaiian Islands.

The Roth administration sent an official request in the form of a letter to the state on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, urging the governor to adjust Hawaiʻi’s Safe Travels Program to include mandatory testing for all trans-Pacific airline passengers, including those who are residents of the state as well as those who can prove they have been fully vaccinated.

During Fridayʻs press conference, Roth said, the governor is looking at a lot of things at the moment.

“We still believe pre-testing and post-testing is the right thing to do,” Roth said. “We see numbers are going up. We know a lot of people have been going to places like Las Vegas and Texas and coming back with the virus. When we did it before we were able to catch a lot of people.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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