HONOLLU (KITV4) -- Governor David Ige announced major changes on Tuesday to COVID-19 restrictions are coming to the state, starting December 1. One of the biggest modifications the Governor announced is social distancing requirements can be eliminated at businesses.
The Governor said he's confident about his decision because the state's hospitalization and COVID-19 infection rates are stable as we head into the holiday season.
The announcement was long-awaited by people in the restaurant industry. While capacity restrictions eased, distancing requirements prevented establishments from having a full-house.
"We've not always agreed, and not always got what we want. But we were heard. That's what we're extremely grateful for," Greg Maples, Hawaii Restaurant Association, said.
While many things are expected to change, some policies such as the state's Safe Travels Program and indoor mask mandates are here to stay. The governor reports about one-third of visitors coming into the islands are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
"We believe it's important for those transpacific travelers who are not vaccinated and who are not completing a pre-travel test to be subject to quarantine. That's the best thing we can do to keep our communities safe," Ige said.
As more private gatherings in homes are expected, Governor Ige has one advice.
"We encourage everyone to use common sense," he said. "We do expect an increase in virus cases as people become more active but we do feel we're in a good position. Our healthcare system has recovered from the surge this summer."
Governor Ige also says county mayors will have the power to change county rules without his approval once again.
"These rules will allow us if we need to be, a lot more nimble, moving forward," Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth, said.
Mayor Roth and Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino say they both plan to change their county rules. Their Specific details are expected to be announced soon.
Come November 30, Governor Ige says extension to renew and replace expired driver's licenses and instructional permits will be suspended. That means residents with outdated IDs and documents will be subject to monthly fines as well as potential re-testing requirements.
"Everybody needs to make sure their licenses are up to date. If you're nearing your expiration date. We strongly encourage you to get it renewed," Ige said.
To keep up with testing demand, the state is trying to purchase hundreds of thousands of rapid antigen tests. They would be similar to these Abbott Binax now tests, those can cost as low as five dollars. The tests can be self-administered with results within minutes.
"We've been trying to purchase a lot of those kits and we have been unable to. Governors from other states identified the same need. We are working with the White House. We want to be able to order and get on a regular basis, tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of these rapid antigen tests. When I went to COP 26, I was tested 8 times in 7 days. The rapid antigen testing allowed me to know each and every day I was virus free. We do hope to have those kinds of tests available," Ige said.
Governor Ige is expected to put pen to paper on November 29, one day before the current emergency proclamation expires. The new rules are expected to be in effect until at least January 28 next year.
The following COVID-19 safety measures will also remain in place from the previous emergency proclamation:
- Vaccination or testing requirements for state executive and county employees
- Vaccination or testing requirements for contractors and visitors to state facilities.
WATCH MORE: Gov. Ige was joined by Hawaii mayors to announce eased COVID restrictions beginning Dec. 1.