HONOLULU (AP) — A Pearl Harbor ceremony in Hawaii marking the 75th anniversary of World War II will only feature veterans living in Hawaii after organizers limited those who can attend over coronavirus concerns.

The plan before Friday had been to allow about 200 people, mostly WWII veterans, their families and government officials, to gather on the battleship USS Missouri, which hosted the Japanese surrender on Sept. 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay.

But an announcement was made Friday night that said those planning to fly into the state are no longer invited in an effort to protect the aging veterans — mostly in their 90s —from COVID-19.

Tony Vericella, the executive director of 75th WWII Commemoration Committee, said in a phone interview Monday that the decision to limit attendance was a difficult one, but organizers are working on new ways to honor those left out in a virtual setting.

Vericella said they were confident in safety measures put in place for the mainland veterans once they arrived for a special flight from Oakland to Honolulu and thereafter, but the risks for those traveling from their hometowns to California was too great.

In a story published early Friday, WWII veteran Jerry Pedersen, who was aboard the USS Missouri and watched the Japanese surrender, told The Associated Press he had been looking forward to attending the event for years, and he understood the risks.

“I’ve been told what I need to do in order to be responsible for myself but also toward others,” said WWII veteran Jerry Pedersen, who was aboard the USS Missouri and watched the Japanese surrender.

“I want to go back because that day, as much as I remember it, what happened, why we were there, the fact that it was the end of the realities of war and killing and all, it was the first day that I had to start answering, ‘What am I going to do with the rest of my life?’” Pedersen said.

Organizers now say fewer than 50 people will attend, mostly veterans and their families, at the Sept. 2 ceremony aboard the USS Missouri. The same health screenings and safety measures previously planned will be in place.