In normal times, dining out was an easy way to get in time with friends over a meal, have a romantic night on the town, or enjoy your favorite dish without the hassle of cooking. Unfortunately, the necessary safety precautions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have made going out to eat a much different experience. As a result of surges brought on by the Delta variant, some places are bringing back certain restrictions and even resorting to new measures to keep diners safe, including popular tourist destinations. Maui is the most recent place to announce such measures, where unvaccinated diners soon won’t be allowed to eat in restaurants.
In an announcement on Sept. 7, local officials in Maui outlined new public health restrictions that would require diners to provide proof they are fully vaccinated to eat indoors at restaurants, USA Today reports. The new regulations, which also affect bars, are set to go into effect on Sept. 15.
According to Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, the public health precautions will remain in place for at least 30 days once they begin. “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 during a press conference.
The new regulations also place limits on the operating hours for bars and restaurants in Maui, setting a daily closing curfew of 10 p.m. Popular tourist activities such as fishing excursions, boat cruises, and guided tours will also see their limited capacity drop from 75 percent to 50 percent to reduce crowd size and allow guests enough distance from one another, USA Today reports.
Officials maintained that their decision to enact the new regulations was well within their authority. “For those claiming that vaccine mandates compromise civil liberties, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) does disagree,” Maui County Managing Director Sandy Baz said during the press conference. “The ACLU has publicly stated that vaccine mandates actually advance civil liberties by protecting the most vulnerable among us.”
The news comes just two weeks after a drastic spike in COVID-19 cases in the state led Hawaii Gov. David Ige to urge tourists to stay away from the popular vacation destination through at least the end of October. “It is a risky time to be traveling right now,” he said at a press conference on Aug. 24. “It is not the time to visit the islands.”
According to The New York Times, the statewide seven-day case average in Hawaii is 743 as of Sept. 7, which represents a 4-percent increase over the past two weeks. The same period also saw an even greater increase in hospitalizations, rising 14 percent over the past 14 days to 453. Data shows that the recent rises have brought numbers to unprecedented heights in a state that was once considered relatively safe from the pandemic, recording more cases in the past month than were seen in all of 2020, USA Today reports.
However, Maui officials conceded that Ige’s warning might have already affected slowing the rush of visitors to the islands. “Our numbers have dropped off drastically,” Victorino said. “They’re [tourists] not coming.”