“We are getting closer”: the mayor hopes that the limits of indoor gatherings can soon be increased

As Hawaii County reopened the county’s gyms and community centers on Monday, Mayor Mitch Roth said he hopes more COVID-19 restrictions can be safely ended soon.

County recreational facilities have been reopened to scheduled activities by reservation, while the county has announced plans to reopen senior centers, senior meal sites and senior classrooms by January 2022.

Parks and Recreation Director Maurice Messina said on Monday that the reopening of the upper classes will depend on increasing the maximum allowed size of indoor gatherings, which is still 10 people in Hawaii County.

“Normally, November is when we start hosting senior classes, but to be financially responsible we would really need the size of the indoor gatherings to be bigger,” Messina said.

Roth said on Monday he hoped the size of indoor gatherings might increase soon, but declined to predict when that might happen.

“There really isn’t a tipping point right now,” Roth said. “It is difficult to give an exact figure, but we are getting closer. As the vaccination rate increases, we hope to be able to drop other restrictions soon. “

According to data from the state’s Department of Health, 67% of the county’s population had completed a vaccination schedule as of Monday. There were only 12 new cases of COVID reported on the island as of Monday, with 69 reported statewide.

Roth said other COVID restrictions that could be eased in the near future could include further increases in collection size limits or removing outdoor mask requirements, but added that many changes would depend decisions of Governor David Ige.

In the meantime, Roth said he hopes reopening gyms and community centers will allow people to safely resume physical activity in order to strengthen their immune systems.

“The county’s goal is to ensure that our facilities get their maximum allowable use,” Messina said.

Under the reopening guidelines, groups planning activities must call Parks and Recreation for a reservation and, if the number of people involved exceeds the allowed limit, submit an event request that includes the COVID security plans for the event. .

“If the security plan is not up to par, we have people at the site who will work with the group to make sure it is up to par,” Messina said, adding that the county had no had no issues with groups breaking the rules. at events earlier this year.

Messina said the county has pushed back plans to reopen gym facilities three times this year as COVID spikes have been triggered repeatedly across the state. However, he said, this gave the county time to further refine the plans before reopening on Monday.

Roth said he considered making vaccinations mandatory for the use of gyms and county centers, but ultimately decided not to.

“We could have demanded vaccines, but we didn’t,” Roth said. “It is true that the majority of people who become seriously ill are not vaccinated, but the people who die most often have co-morbidities. “

Because some COVID comorbidities such as obesity can be alleviated through physical activity, Roth said it’s important to keep physical recreation centers available for everyone.

The free-standing community centers will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Gyms with integrated community centers will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

Certain activities may be permitted at the facilities after hours on a case-by-case basis, Messina said. Reservations can be made by contacting the property directly or by contacting the County Recreation Division at (808) 961-8740.

“We are asking people to make reservations as soon as they know when their event will be taking place,” Messina said.

Email Michael Brestovansky at [email protected]

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