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Ige: Counties free to make emergency rules without state’s permission

Gov. Ige today announced that as of Dec. 1, he will no longer require counties to obtain his approval or that of Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, before issuing county emergency orders, rules or proclamations.

“The counties will continue to have direct responsibility for emergency management within their respective counties,” Ige said in a news conference that included three of the state’s four county mayors. “… This is really just a return to the normal emergency situations in which counties are the lead and the state provides guidance and support.

“… It really is a good time to pivot state coordination back to the counties.”

Ige said statewide gathering limits on social gatherings, restaurants, bars and gyms “will terminate on Dec. 1.”

“The counties will continue to implement measures regarding social gatherings at restaurants and other operations,” Ige noted, adding there will no longer be “a statewide order regarding these establishments.”

According to the governor, hospitalization levels due to COVID-19 are “back to the baseline levels before the spike we experienced in August and September.”

The spike he referred to occurred because of the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus.

“And actually, the hospitalization numbers are falling to the levels that we saw back in March and April, when we all anticipated that by the the 4th of July, we would be back to normal,” Ige said.

Extensions of deadlines for the renewal of driver’s licenses, instruction permits and replacements are ending Nov. 29, Ige said.

“Everybody needs to make sure that their licenses are up to date. If you are nearing your expiration date, we strongly encourage you to get it renewed,” he said.

In addition, the state is also no longer offering a critical infrastructure workers’ exemption to the 10-day travel quarantine because of vaccination and testing requirements of workers.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Maui Mayor Mike Victorino, who both participated in the conference, announced today their counties will return to allowing restaurants and bars to operate at full capacity. Blangiardi also said the City and County of Honolulu will end its restrictions on gathering sizes.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth, who participated via Zoom, said the move to county oversight of emergency management rules “will allow us, if we need to be, a lot more nimble moving forward.”

“We’re excited to be open again completely for business. We’re excited for our kids and our kupuna, for the ability to be involved with recreational activities, sporting activities — having people go and see their kids play games is super important,” Roth said.

Noting case surges in other areas, Roth cautioned “we’re not completely out of the woods.”

“And we ask people just to have some common sense to do the right things,” he said.

Roth said his rules committee is meeting and “we do intend to make some big changes,” but added “today is not our day to announce those rule changes.”

Asked about a return to full operating capacity in bars and restaurants, Roth replied, “I’ve agreed to meet with some community people and some people in the hospitality industry, as well.”

“While we have some ideas about what we’re going to do, rather than come out with those ideas, I still have some people I want to listen to,” he said. “And after today’s announcements, I think they’re going to be pretty happy, but I’d rather wait to make that announcement until after I’ve had a chance to listen to them and meet with our rules committee again.”

Roth said, however, he could “almost guarantee that gathering size is going to be part of” the “big changes” he intends to announce soon.

Emergency measures that remain unchanged include: the Hawaii Safe Travels Program; the indoor mask mandate; vaccination or testing requirements for state executive branch and county employees; and vaccination or testing requirements for contractors and visitors to state facilities.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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