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Gov. David Ige calls for tourism halt for 30 days amid coronavirus pandemic

  • BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Gov. David Ige spoke at a news conference Tuesday about guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Behind him is Ken Hara, director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and coronavirus incident commander.

    BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Gov. David Ige spoke at a news conference Tuesday about guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Behind him is Ken Hara, director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and coronavirus incident commander.

  • BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Gov. David Ige spoke at a news conference Tuesday in which he directed all bars and clubs to close and all restaurants to close their dining rooms and shift to takeout, drive-thru or delivery service only.

    BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Gov. David Ige spoke at a news conference Tuesday in which he directed all bars and clubs to close and all restaurants to close their dining rooms and shift to takeout, drive-thru or delivery service only.

Gov. David Ige on Tuesday took the extraordinary step of asking all visitors planning to come to Hawaii to postpone their trips for the next 30 days and reschedule “for another date” to curb the further spread of the new coronavirus across the islands.

Ige had no estimate for the economic impact on the island economy, which relies on tourism.

“We do know there will be significant impact,” he said at a Capitol news conference.

But Ige emphasized that his call to postpone island visits is essential to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re suggesting all activities shut down for the next 15 days,” he said.

Later, in a statement, Ige said, “The actions I’m announcing today may seem extreme to some of you, and we know that it will have negative effects to our economy. But we are confident that taking aggressive actions now will allow us to have a quicker recovery when this crisis is over.”

Ige also directed all bars and clubs to close and all restaurants to close their dining rooms and shift to takeout, drive-thru or delivery service only.

“Theaters and entertainment centers and visitor attractions” also should close, Ige said. Places of worship should suspend all services and activities.

Ige’s decision to essentially kill the state’s No. 1 industry for the next 30 days came after health officials reported Hawaii’s COVID-19 cases rose by four to 14.

New cases are coming faster, and Ige took steps to slow the spread so it will not overwhelm the state’s health resources as some models have predicted.

The four new cases announced Tuesday included the first on the Big Island.

State Epidemiologist Sarah Park said the Big Island case is a traveler from the mainland. Two others on Oahu are residents who have traveled recently to Japan and the Philippines.

A fourth case is on Maui. All four are adults but no further details were released.

“We’re starting to see the disease more often occur in Hawaii. You all know this virus is spreading rapidly through most of the U.S.,” said state Health Director Bruce Anderson in a conference call with reporters. “In many areas (on the mainland) we have community spread. When that happens you’re going to see a dramatic increase in the number of cases, and we expect that to happen in here.”

Community spread cases are those that do not involve recent travel.

On Monday, health officials announced Hawaii’s first confirmed case of community spread: a Kualoa Ranch tour guide.

The Kualoa Ranch case was “very likely” because the employee came in close contact with an infected tourist, Anderson said.

The ranch employee has 25 family members and contacts who had been screened by health officials. Three of those are being tested for COVID-19 while the rest are being quarantined at home.

”The general recommendation would be to avoid groups and gatherings, and that would be tour groups, where people come in contact with each other,” Anderson said.

In addition to requesting visitors postpone trips to Hawaii, Ige announced that:

>> Disembarking cruise ship passengers will be thermal-scanned for possible signs of coronavirus infections starting Friday. State officials are also working on plans for screening arriving visitors at Hawaii airports.

>> All nonessential state workers, other than Department of Education employees, should stay home, work from home or perform other duties they’re qualified for over the next 15 days. All employees will be paid andbe eligible for sick leave, vacation and other benefits.

>> All nonessential state travel will be banned, including neighbor island trips but excluding state Department of Education travel. Everyone who travels for the state must comply with a 14-day self-quarantine, Ige said.

>> His administration is also working to halt evictions and foreclosures for nonpayment from people out of work, and working with utilities to ensure that services are not shut off “during these critical times, such as electrical, gas, water, internet, land lines and cell phone services.”

Ige also said that:

>> People should not visit nursing and retirement homes or long-term care facilities to prevent the spread of coronavirus to seniors, who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19.

>> If anyone in a household tests positive for COVID-19, the entire household should stay at home.

>> Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, “incident commander” of Hawaii’s coronavirus response, has “the full authority” to determine what constitutes critical infrastructure or essential services that will continue, such as utilities, fuel producers, shipping facilities and industry, financial institutions, financial services, telecommunications companies, wholesalers, distributors, grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations. Hara also said the administration is working on finding sites for the sale of hoarded goods such as toilet paper and cleaning products; and encouraging stores to arrange morning hours where they will only allow kupuna shopping.

>> State libraries will be closed temporarily and then reopened with new policies to maintain social distancing. There will be no fees for late returns, and library online resources will still be available.

>> The state Department of Land and Natural Resources will close state parks.

>> All events at the state Capitol and State Art Museum, and tours at Washington Place — the governor’s mansion — are suspended.

>> The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has suspended all combat sports.

>> All events at Aloha Stadium and the Hawai‘i Convention Center are suspended for the next 30 days.

CORONAVIRUS SHUT DOWN

Gov. David Ige announced several measures on Tuesday to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus across the islands, including:

>> Asking all Hawaii visitors to postpone their trips for the next 30 days

>> Disembarking cruise ship passengers will be thermal scanned for possible signs of coronavirus infections starting Friday. State officials are also working on plans for screening arriving visitors at Hawaii airports.

>> All non-essential state workers should stay home, work from home or perform other duties they’re qualified for over the next 15 days.

>> All non-essential state travel will be banned, including neighbor island trips but excluding state Department of Education travel. Everyone who travels for the state must comply with a 14-day self quarantine, Ige said.

>> “All bars and clubs should be closed.”

>> Places of worship should suspend all services and activities.

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