Big Island Coronavirus Updates

Officials Promise to Enforce COVID Restrictions Going into Holiday Weekend

By Tiffany DeMasters
September 3, 2021, 4:56 PM HST
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As the Labor Day weekend begins, state and county officials have pledged to enforce emergency rules related to COVID-19 in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

During a press conference Friday, Sept. 3, Gov. David Ige was joined by all county mayors and law enforcement leaders who pleaded with Hawaiʻi residents to abide by health care restrictions for the sake of not just the community but the welfare of Hawaiʻi’s overcrowded hospitals.

“Our choices today and over the weekend can help prevent the worst-case scenario for our health care system,” Ige said. “Please act responsibly this holiday weekend. Do it for the sake of your family, your community and the state.”

The spike in COVID-19 cases, Ige said, has put “tremendous stress” on the hospitals and the state is in danger of moving toward what he described as the “worst-case scenario.”

“If that happens, we have heard from our health care leaders that people may not receive the care they need and certainly some may die,” Ige said. “We’re asking everybody to work with us to limit the spread of COVID.”

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Jill Hoggard Green, president & CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems, stated this is an important time for the community.

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“Today is a very serious day,” Green said. “We face a delta variant that is dangerous, rapidly growing, easily transmitted and can cause serious consequences, particularly to those who aren’t vaccinated.”

Green described the health care system’s worst-case scenario as the hospitals having so many patients “that we can’t care for all of you and are unable to provide the high level of care.”

Green said there isn’t a specific number of patients being treated at the hospital that would trigger this.

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“It’s when you no longer have the ability to care for the next group of patients coming in and continue to care for the individuals you have,” she said.

However, Green believes that situation can be avoided by following the safety guidelines officials have preached since the beginning of the pandemic: avoid large gatherings, wear a mask in public, stay home when sick and wash hands regularly.

Green added the best way for someone to protect themselves and to fight the virus is to get vaccinated.

“If we all work together today, we can stop the transmission of the disease,” she said. “If we don’t, we’ll hit a point where we won’t be able to meet a patient’s needs.”

How Hawaiʻi behaves over the long weekend and into the coming weeks will determine if hospitals are headed to maximum capacity, Green added.

“We can do this,” Green said. “This is a time where we can control all that happens to us.”

On Aug. 25, Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth enacted Emergency Rule 17, which limits indoor and outdoor gathering sizes to 10 people. Those in violation could face a citation of $250.

During the press conference, Roth said, hospitals on the Big Island are at capacity.

“We have 24 ICU beds and we have 25 people needing ICU services,” the mayor stated. “That’s a big number.”

There are patients in need of care for COVID and non-COVID issues.

“It’s our sincere hope that our community will take it into their own hands to keep each other safe this weekend and every other day,” Roth said. “We need to do whatever we can to not only protect our health care workers but everyone on this island.”

In reference to his latest emergency rule, Roth said the measure isn’t intended to be government control, but for the community to take control of this virus.

“No mandate is going to slow down the spread without full participation from every one of us,” said.

Roth said this weekend isn’t a time to let the guard down but to put it up.

“No one wants to give citations on a holiday weekend, but it’s something we will do,” the mayor said.

Hawaiʻi Police Chief Paul Ferreira was also present during the press conference. He echoed the same pleas of compliance.

“Any protective measures will protect not only you but your neighbors,” he said.

Labor Day weekend is normally a time when HPD increases its enforcement as there is usually a spike in impaired driving. Ferreira said there will be additional officers in the field and a saturation of patrol on the roads.

No one wants to issue citations or arrests but the chief said it’s a tool to ensure the emergency rules are followed.

“The plea is voluntary compliance,” Ferreira said.

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.
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