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Honolulu mayor confident eased restrictions will not lead to COVID surge, plans backed by health experts

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Honolulu mayor confident eased restrictions will not lead to COVID surge, plans backed by health experts

Back in February, the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall reopened to the public as a vaccination clinic -- but by next week, the venue could go back to its original purpose, serving as a home for concerts and live events. 

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi decided to announce eased restrictions for the island of O'ahu at the Blaisdell Wednesday, as a symbolic gesture to show how far the city has come in its fight against the Coronavirus. 

"We felt like the time had come and we wanted to say yes to this, for all kinds of reasons, and honestly, have a lot to do with the psychological well-being of our community," Blangiardi said. 

However, the city had minor disagreements with the Department of Health over the new mandates. 

"I think their concerns were, we still have a 100 case counts, we have now welcomed visitors to come back to Hawai'i, we're going into the holiday season, there's gonna be a lot of events, gatherings, official or unofficial people are what they are," Blangiardi added. 

Ultimately, city officials put aside the disagreements to follow through with the new restrictions -- and Blangiardi said they'd accept responsibility if COVID case counts rise after the rules roll out. 

But Blangiardi emphasized now is the time to ease the orders due to the city's vaccination progress -- 95 percent of O'ahu residents eligible for the vaccine (people age 12 and older) received at least one dose. 

The mayor also pointed out hospitalizations and daily COVID case counts are declining. 

Hilton Raethel, of the Healthcare Association of Hawai'i, backed Blangiardi's efforts to reopen the economy while also closely monitoring the health of the community. 

"We have so much to be proud of here in Hawai'i in terms of what we've done," Raethel said. 

"As of this week, we have the lowest infection rate in the nation, we have the second-lowest death rate."

The new rules are set to remain in effect until Chirstmas Day, then city officials will decide whether to tighten or loosen the rules. 

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