Mayor Kim Affirms County’s Continued Efforts Against COVID-19

March 11, 2020, 3:24 PM HST (Updated March 12, 2020, 6:44 PM)
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Mayor Harry Kim was called before Hawai‘i County Council to provide an update on where the county is on its efforts to handle the impacts of COVID-19.

With a multi-disciplinary task force in place for the past month, Kim said, the county has worked to address medical responses and provide education programs to the community on the novel coronavirus. Those efforts are ongoing, as the mayor told council members this pandemic is a community issue.

“This is a community issue, and it will take community involvement,” Kim stated.

The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a global pandemic, which means there is an increase and sustained transmission in the general population. As of now, there are no confirmed cases in Hawai‘i County. State officials are overseeing the health of two O‘ahu residents who have been infected with the virus.

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Deputy Fire Chief Lance Uchida was assigned to head up the task force, which is in collaboration with Hawai‘i County Civil Defense, Hilo Medical Center, Hawai‘i Department of Health, Hawai‘i Fire Department and the Mayor’s Office.

“Your County has activated task forces to provide coordinated medical responses, educational and prevention programs,” Kim said in his statement to the council. “As community partners, you can make a positive difference right now by staying informed, following health advisories and taking action to protect yourselves, your family and your community.”

County council members were impressed with the mayor’s proactive efforts to protect the Big Island.

“You are doing everything I think we would’ve done ourselves, maybe more,” said County Councilwoman Maile David.

Council members had a myriad of questions regarding the protection of Hawai‘i Island residents. Concerns ranged from how to provide information to the most vulnerable populations, to no soap in public park dispensaries to how to provide tele-education to children if schools close.

“I’ll make it clear here — during all emergencies, all normalcies stop,” Kim said. “I need all of us to understand, that none of us has any control here.”

They also expressed concerns about the financial consequences this will have on the island’s community and economy. Kim said the county must establish priorities when certain things need to be shut down.

The county is also evaluating all large gatherings under its authority — this includes the upcoming Merrie Monarch Festival in April.

“Decisions have to be made on how it will impact the community and who it will impact,” the mayor said.

After the meeting, Kim said, the statement he provided to the council will be distributed to all radio stations.

“We will do everything we can and think of to communicate with you and ride this through,” Kim told the council.

Read his full statement below:

This is a message from your County Government to all the people of Hawai’i Island:

This is about the coronavirus (COVID-19).  At this date there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Hawai’i County, but our community must come together and take action to prevent its potential spread.  It is known that two confirmed cases have been identified on the island of Oahu.  We may not be able to stop the virus from getting to Hawai’i Island, but with your help we will minimize its impact on families and our community.

The County of Hawai’i is fully committed to working with State, Federal and private partners.  Your County has activated task forces to provide coordinated medical responses, educational and prevention programs.  As community partners, you can make a positive difference right now by staying informed, following health advisories and taking action to protect yourselves, your family and your community.

Understand that most people who get the virus will not even know they have it, so we must be smart as we go about our everyday activities.  Simple things like washing hands, disinfecting counters, and greeting friends with a wave instead of a handshake or a hug can really make a big difference.

Additionally, ALL gatherings should be evaluated on two issues:

  • First, should it be held?
  • Secondly, if it is to be held, under what conditions and what measures can be taken to minimize risk to people?

Your County government is now evaluating all activities under its authority.

This is a Community Issue, and it will take Community Involvement.  And that’s the key – YOU will make the difference.

Thank you for your help, thank you for caring, and thank you for listening. This is your Hawai‘i County government.

For more information, call Civil Defense at 935-0031.  The hours are 7:00 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat. Tiffany is an award-winning journalist, receiving recognition from the Utah-Idaho-Spokane Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists. Tiffany grew up on the Big Island and is passionate about telling the community’s stories.

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