Hawai‘i ‘Medium-Risk’ Businesses to Begin Reopening in June

May 18, 2020, 3:22 PM HST (Updated May 18, 2020, 3:24 PM)
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Governor David Ige on Monday announced that “medium-risk” businesses in Hawai‘i will be allowed to reopen beginning June 1.

Medium risk businesses are those characterized by “intense, face-to-face contact of 30 minutes or more,” or those businesses characterized by contact with several different individuals throughout the normal course of daily activities. These include indoor dining options at restaurants, hair salons, movie theaters, indoor gyms and museums.

“Specific details about what is open, when and how will come from the counties with my approval,” Ige said. “Under this strategy, counties may choose to relax stricter local orders at their own pace in coordination with my office.”

The move — signed into law via the governor’s 8th supplemental emergency proclamation, which he signed Monday — signals a transition from “safer-at-home” conditions to “act-with-care” conditions statewide. It is part of a larger plan for the full reopening of the Hawai‘i economy, which is outlined in detail here.

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It also coincided with the governor’s announcement that mandatory, 14-day travel quarantines for those arriving in Hawai‘i and inter-island travelers will both be extended through the end of June.

State health experts acknowledged the governor’s decision Monday will likely lead to a bump in positive COVID-19 cases. The Department of Health reported zero new cases statewide Monday, the third time since the pandemic hit Hawai‘i that no new cases of the virus were reported.

However, consistently low daily COVID-19 numbers over the last several weeks, increased contact-tracing abilities and statewide hospital capacity have created conditions the governor said allow for further reopening to commence in the coming weeks.

The reopening of high-risk businesses and operations will eventually follow, as long as Hawai‘i’s disease activity continues to remain manageable, the governor said.

High-risk businesses include bars, clubs and large venues. The category may also include buffet-style restaurants, which are more problematic than regular restaurants.

These businesses will not be allowed to open until at least the middle of June, as part of the governor’s plan includes a 14-day waiting period between decision points to allow government and health officials at state and county levels can gauge how public health responds to loosened economic restrictions.

“I don’t anticipate high-risk businesses … will be reopened before the end of June,” Ige acknowledged Monday.

As a safeguard, the state can also consider the option of moving backward — closing businesses and reimplementing restrictions if disease activity increases.

Despite the transition into the second phase of reopening, the governor said gatherings still need to be limited. As the state moves into further phases, larger gatherings will be allowed, starting with groups of 10 people or less and eventually moving to groups of 50 people and 100 people, as long as public health allows it.

O‘ahu and Maui began allowing small, residential family gatherings at beaches Saturday. Hawai‘i County has yet to allow the same activities.

Hawai‘i’s re-opening strategy for businesses and operations is informed by the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and Johns Hopkins Public Health Principles for a Phased Reopening, based on Contact Intensity & Number of Contacts, according to a state press release.

Max Dible
Max Dible is a reporter for Big Island Now. He will also serve in a news capacity for Pacific Media Group's Hawai‘i Island family of radio stations. He formerly worked as a community reporter for West Hawai‘i Today in Kailua-Kona from 2016 to 2019. Before that, he was a sports editor, sports reporter and radio talk show personality with the Iowa State Daily and KURE 88.5 FM, respectively, in Ames, Iowa. He's won several regional and national journalism awards, at both the collegiate and professional levels, for breaking news, long-form feature writing and his work as a sports columnist.
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