Hawaii counties to increase restaurant capacity, decrease social distancing requirements

Hawaii is relaxing its COVID-19 dining requirements, which have remained strict through the majority of the pandemic, Gov. David Ige (D) announced during a Tuesday press conference.

As of Dec. 1, statewide limits on social gatherings and capacities for restaurants and bars will no longer be in place, he said. Individual counties will continue to determine specific regulations of their own.

Restaurants and bars on Maui and Honolulu will return to operation at 100 percent capacity under the new orders. Additionally, patrons in those counties will no longer need to adhere to social distancing guidelines and will be allowed to mingle freely while visiting establishments, The Associated Press reported.

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Under the new COVID-19 emergency phase, the state will return to the normal emergency plan in which counties lead and the state provides support, Ige said.

"Hawaii continues to have amongst the lowest rates of infection and fatalities in the nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic," Ige said, according to Pacific Business News.

He added that the "improvement and stabilization of the virus activity in our community" makes it "a good time to pivot state coordination back to the counties."

Some basic COVID-19 safety regulations will remain in place, Ige noted, including the indoor mask mandate and the Hawaii Safe Travels Program, which requires visitors to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test upon entry.