Expectations are high that a change in COVID-19 restrictions will be announced today after Mayor Rick Blangiardi told a crowd of event planners at Honolulu Hale on Thursday, “I think tomorrow you’ll be pleased.”

“We’re almost there, OK?” Blangiardi said. “There’s a couple of things going on,” he said, adding that a proposed loosening of restrictions could take effect Wednesday.

Gov. David Ige also raised hopes of easing restrictions by posting on his Facebook account Thursday that he was “optimistic” that he can announce lifting some unspecified coronavirus-related restrictions.

“Now that we’re seeing a lower number of cases and hospitalized patients, I’m optimistic that by the end of this week we can announce that we will begin lifting some of those restrictions, while keeping the health and safety of loved ones a top priority,” Ige wrote. “I know many of you are ready to get back to normal, and we’re taking steps to get there. Mahalo for your hard work, patience and kuleana.”

Ige provided no timetable. And Blangiardi, who last month imposed city-only Safe Access O‘ahu mandates, said, “I don’t want to get out in front of the governor.” But Blangiardi hinted at some changes.

“You have my word,” Blangiardi said. “We’re going to make announcements on weddings. We’re going to make other announcements. … I want to expand the outdoor events and the indoor events in good numbers to begin with, only to get better from there.”

Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, said any initial easing of state or city restrictions would be welcomed, even if they only begin with allowing fans into University of Hawaii sporting events. The next UH home football game is slated for Oct. 23 against New Mexico State.

Hannemann has been organizing discussions between Ige and business industry leaders in regard to proposed amendments to the governor’s call in August for tourists to stay away through October. An effort is underway to signal that Hawaii is making strides in battling the virus, which could spur bookings and visitor arrivals for the the rest of the year, including the holiday season.

“I think something will happen (today), even if it’s to announce the opening of games,” Hannemann said. “I’m a big UH fan and would like to see that open.” However, he added that “our big ask” is for Ige to announce “when we can reopen, because it’s critical for folks who may want to come in November and December. And January and February are important, too.”

A letter to Ige authored by business leaders, issued last week, cited economic devastation tied to the recent surge of the highly contagious delta variant — with business operations ranging from airlines to merchants and restaurants hard-hit.

Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a statement, “Governor Ige’s plan to lift some restrictions as a result of the decreasing COVID case counts is critical to the survival of small and local businesses, which have already endured many hardships.”

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