Snagging restaurant reservations and bookings for popular tourist activities has been a struggle for visitors to Maui this summer and it’s about to get more difficult as Hawaii grapples with a COVID surge it largely escaped until the past several weeks.
Beginning Sept. 15, customers who want to dine inside at restaurants and bars must show proof they are fully vaccinated. Those who aren’t vaccinated will only be allowed to dine outside, where applicable, or order takeout. Children younger than age 12 are exempt.
Bars and restaurants must also close by 10 p.m. starting next week.
Many tourist activities will also see cuts in capacity. Group sizes on tours, snorkeling excursions, fishing expeditions, sunset sails and other excursions, as well as ground transportation providers, will be limited to 50%, down from the current capacity limit of 75%, to promote social distancing.
The new restrictions, which will be in place for at least 30 days, were announced late Tuesday by Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino and other government officials.
“If the (COVID case) numbers don’t come down over the next 30 days, we may have to implement stricter rules and stricter mandates,” he said.
Maui’s new rules come a week after Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced strict new rules for restaurants, bars, museums and other establishments. Beginning Sept. 13 in Honolulu, customers must show vaccine proof or a negative COVID test to enter the establishments. Takeout is excluded.
Victorino said Maui decided not to offer a negative COVID test option for diners and bar patrons because most people generally don’t plan their evenings out around a COVID test.
Hawaii has already reported more than twice as many coronavirus cases this year as it did in all of 2020, Johns Hopkins University data shows.
According to the data, Hawaii had been reporting 66,778 COVID-19 cases through Saturday afternoon. It had reported 22,007 cases in all of 2020.
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The annual comparisons don’t begin to tell how much Hawaii struggled with a wave of cases pushed by the delta variant. In just the last month, Hawaii has reported more cases than it did in all of last year.
In late August, Hawaii Gov. David Ige issued a plea for tourists to stay away from the islands through October due to the damage from the delta variant.
Victorino said Tuesday that tourist numbers have already fallen sharply since the announcement, though some of the declines are seasonal.
“Our numbers have dropped off drastically,” Victorino said. “They’re (tourists) not coming.”
Hawaiian Airlines said in an investor filing Tuesday that bookings have taken a hit and cancellations have increased due to the rise in COVID cases and the governor’s comments “that it was not a good time to visit Hawaii.” As a result, it lowered its revenue forecast for the quarter that ends Sept. 30.
Contributing: Mike Stucka