Hawaii tightens COVID restrictions for restaurants, bars but no changes to visitor entry requirements

Hawaii is tightening COVID-19 restrictions amid an alarming spike in cases but the state is not changing tourist entry requirements, at least yet.

Gov. David Ige late Tuesday said restaurant and bar capacity will be reduced to 50% effective immediately. Capacity was raised to 75% percent in early July as vaccination rates climbed, welcome news to restaurant operators and visitors who have been scrambling to find reservations. But the dangerous delta variant dictates a cut in capacity, Ige said.

Hawaii is seeing a seven-day average of more than 500 cases per day and a test positivity rate of 7.25%, Ige said. Those figures a month ago: 60 cases per day and a test positive rate of 2.25%.

“We need to take action and we need to take action now,” he said.

He called restaurants and bars high risk activities and said social distancing will be required and that “there will be no mingling and masks must be worn at all times except when actively eating or drinking.”

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Ige said Hawaii is evaluating its Safe Travels program, which includes the most strict travel restrictions in the United States. Visitors currently must present a negative COVID test or be vaccinated to bypass the state’s mandatory 10-day quarantine.

Visitors with upcoming trips have peppering travel agents and Hawaii travel message groups with questions about possible changes, including a return to pre-departure travel testing requirements for all visitors regardless of vaccination status. That was the case before July 8, when a vaccine exemption took effect.

“At this point and time we won’t be … making any specific changes to the safe travels program,” Ige said.

The governor noted that the number of COVID cases among visitors is “relatively low,” at 1 or 2%. The bulk of travel-related cases are from residents returning to the island with infections.

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Kaanapali Beach, a popular tourist spot on the Hawaiian island of Maui, was busy on Monday, July 5. Maui  tourism, which essentially shut down for 7 months during the coronavirus pandemic, is approaching pre-pandemic levels by some measures.

Kaanapali Beach, a popular tourist spot on the Hawaiian island of Maui, was busy on Monday, July 5. Maui tourism, which essentially shut down for 7 months during the coronavirus pandemic, is approaching pre-pandemic levels by some measures.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hawaii travel restrictions: Restaurants, bars reduced capacity again

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