Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Hawai‘i Mayors’ Responses to COVID-19 Differ Starkly

March 18, 2020, 6:43 PM HST
* Updated March 18, 6:50 PM
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Mayor Harry Kim.

It’ll be the opposite of business as usual on O‘ahu, as Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has mandated all restaurants, bars and nightclubs cease both indoor and outdoor operations by 8:30 p.m. Friday.

The order, signed by Caldwell Wednesday, will be in effect for at least 15 days. Carry-out and delivery remain options for businesses impacted by the order. Those who do not comply will face stiff fines and potential jail time.

“We’re hoping businesses will comply,” the mayor said.

The economic impact will no doubt be substantial. The Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i released the results of a new survey Wednesday afternoon that contends the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state will lead to significant, protracted economic downturn.

“The survey of over 300 businesses revealed that 84% of respondents expect a negative impact on business due to Coronavirus and 21% will lose more than $10,000 a day if they stop operations,” the release said.

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Honolulu parks, public gathering spaces and the city’s zoo were also ordered closed. There are no restrictions on O‘ahu grocery stores, which offer what the state considers essential services.

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Caldwell’s order was the newest in a series of enhanced efforts statewide to curb the spread of COVID-19, of which there were 16 confirmed or presumptive positive cases in Hawai‘i as of noon Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Kaua‘i Mayor Derek Kawakami announced a 9 p.m. curfew for his entire island, during which people will be restricted to their homes. The curfew lifts at 5 a.m. every morning.

Kawakami took aim at travelers as well saying, “Until further notice, visitors should not be traveling to our island for recreational purposes. Kaua‘i is on vacation.”

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Both mayors Wednesday took positions starkly different from that of Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim. The county announced Wednesday morning it would leave closures and operational adjustments to the discretion of individual businesses, despite a strong recommendation from Gov. David Ige Tuesday that non-essential businesses close or adjust their business models in the interest of public health.

Ige has the authority to mandate such closures and adjustments statewide but, thus far, has chosen not to do so.

“I explained to (the governor) we might choose a different option because the necessity of food and feeding tourists is much more difficult here because of the size of the island and the separation of districts,” Mayor Kim said.

The mayor also said county parks and beaches would remain open and be cared for by a task force he plans to create, which will spray multiple times daily with disinfectant and monitor the headcount in public areas.

“You’re not going to keep teenagers locked up in their houses when their parents are working,” Kim said. “We want them to congregate where it’s monitored and clean.”

Several businesses on the Big Island have already shut down temporarily, or taken steps in that direction of their own volition. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has also closed several state parks on the Big Island indefinitely.

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