Oahu could move into Tier 3 of the city’s strategic re-opening plan this week, that means relaxing certain restrictions after spending more than four months under current Tier 2 requirements. Getting to the next tier requires a seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases to stay below 50, with a positivity rate under 2.5 percent for at least two-weeks.

Tier 3 status would allow movie theaters and fitness facilities to operate up to 50-percent capacity and the size of gatherings would increase from five to 10 people.

Despite the potential of more flexibility, some business owners believe it still might not be enough to keep them afloat.

Magnum Helicopters was forced to close for eight months in 2020. Since re-opening last November, owner Richard Schuman says he learned no matter what tier the city is in, the only thing that can help his business take off again is more tourists. Schuman expressed frustration over the effectiveness of the tier-system.

“If five people can eat at a restaurant without a mask but three people can’t sit in a helicopter because that exceeds a capacity, that’s been a problem,” Schuman said.

With revenue still down, Schuman says Magnum is being paid to take more flights in TV shows to help make ends meet.

“It really helped. That’s what kept going last year,” Schuman said. “Nationwide or worldwide, it gives us the audience, hopefully they want to come to Hawaii.”

Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of Chamber of Commerce Hawaii believes it will more than a year before the state’s economy recovers from the pandemic.

We’ve been through this for almost a year. During this year, they loss significant revenue. That’s based on a survey we did in January. It’s very compelling how much impact it had on our small business community,” Menor-McNamara said.

Until then, she says any idea of economic relief should include financial support for businesses.

“Rent is a huge issue amongst many of our businesses. They’re struggling with that and paying back rent,” Menor-McNamara said.

Menor-McNamara does believe allowing more people into businesses in Tier 3 is a step forward but capacity limitations could hold back any significant improvement.

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