Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell today issued a “stay at home, work from home order” for Oahu effective Monday at 4:30 p.m. through April 30 in an attempt to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
Shortly after Caldwell’s announcement, Maui Mayor Mike Victorino issued a similar order for Maui County.
Gov. David Ige issued a statement in support of the county moves, “The mayors of the City and County of Honolulu and Maui have my full support for the stay-at-home, work-at-home orders they issued today,” Ige said. “We have been working together on this issue, and this morning we agreed that the mayors should develop their own plans to meet the unique needs of their counties. We also agreed that statewide action will be needed. I have directed the Attorney General to review the orders other states have issued and prepare a statewide plan that will keep the people of Hawaii safe and healthy.”
At a news conference at Honolulu Hale this afternoon, Caldwell said people are permitted to step out for essential activities such as:
>> Tasks essential to their health and safety
>> To obtain necessary services or supplies
>> To engage in outdoor activity in locations as permitted by law
>> To perform work providing essential products and services
>> To care for a family member or pet in another household.
“At the end of the day this is about protecting our ohana,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell’s order includes a long list of exempted businesses — including health care operations, banks, gas stations, and grocery stores and other retail establishments that sell food and other household consumer products — which will continue to operate. (See the full list and a copy of Caldwell’s order below.
The mayor said that the worst-case scenario is 40,000 to 45,000 cases in Hawaii by the end of April if the state and counties don’t take drastic action.
The U.S. slope in COVID-19 cases “is pretty darn steep,” which requires local governments to strict action to try to keep Hawaii from having a similarly steep increase.
South Korea and Japan infection rates are flattening out after strict action, he noted, and Hawaii wants to follow that example.
He says Hawaii has a “little under” 300 intensive care units (ICU) in the state.
Projections based on statistical analyses show that Hawaii would exceed its capacity of ICU beds by April 25.
“As that number climbs, we are looking at an Italy” situation, where doctors are forced to decide who lives or dies because there aren’t enough ICU beds and ventilators to save everyone, Caldwell said.
The drastic action announced by the state Saturday and Honolulu County today are intended to avoid that spike, he said.
Watch this afternoon’s press conference below.
When asked why he is issuing the order when Ige has not issued a similar mandate for the entire state, Caldwell said, “We didn’t want to wait,” noting that most of Hawaii’s population lives on Oahu, and in close quarters.
Eight more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Hawaii — including another child — bringing the state cases to 56, the state Department of Health said today.
“One thing we need right now is time and these measures will buy us time,” Honolulu Department of Emergency Management Director Hiro Toiya said at today’s news conference.
The city’s strategy buys Hawaii’s health-care system time to catch up and get the supplies and equipment it needs to treat more patients, according to Caldwell.
He described the strategy as “The Hammer,” comprised of the state’s 14-day quarantine of anyone entering Hawaii (starting Thursday) combined with Honolulu County’s “stay at home, work from home” order, which takes effect Monday afternoon.
If it works, Hawaii should see its infection rate decline in about three to seven weeks, he said. He referred to that period as “The Dance,” when the coronavirus infection rate “comes down, but it doesn’t go away.”
The time allows the health-care systems to catch up and take the necessary steps to combat the virus. That includes replenishing the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health-care workers, implement rapid testing for COVID-19, increasing the supply of ventilators and developing more effective treatments.
“We have to take drastic steps to buy time to mitigate,” the mayor said.
“For those cities that only go the mitigation route,” the outbreak worsens, he said. Hawaii has to buy time “so we don’t overwhelm our health care system.”
Caldwell said he is expecting the state to issue a similar “stay at home, work from home” statewide order in the next few days.
Toiya, with the city’s Department of Emergency Management, said, “One thing we need right is time.”
He referred to a “critical shortage” of PPE for health-care workers in Hawaii, but did not specify exactly what or how much is needed. PPE may refer to masks, shields, gowns, gloves and other protective gear worn by health-care workers treating infectious patients.
Hawaii needs to be able to test and isolate positive cases immediately, and does not currently have that capability, he said.
Toiya said his department would help ensure that the city’s essential functions can occur.
Caldwell said Honolulu County is following a model similar to San Francisco’s shutdown and word from there is that “for the most part, people are complying.”
He expects the same to occur in Hawaii. “We are a place of aloha and ohana. We don’t want to get each other sick. …. We are a people who comply.”
Caldwell said the city is reviewing CDC advice to keep public bathrooms open and stocked with soap, toilet paper and other sanitary supplies and to let homeless people camp in public parks if necessary, and may reconsider the city’s earlier actions not to allow that.
He said essential services would continue, including sewer, water and garbage service. Rail work will continue, he said. The “stay at home, work from home” order applies to everyone. “Visitors should not be out, doing things that are not essential.”
Under the order, 7,000 of about 10,000 city workers are deemed essential, but that may be adjusted over time.
Oahu residents should expect “a long and prolonged” situation that requires them to work from home.
Hotel workers are deemed essential.
Caldwell couldn’t predict when life would get back to normal. “It’s going to take all of us working together.”
“I’m hopeful (that the strategy will work) … I don’t think we should build up expectations that it’s going to be quick. It’s going to be a long time.”
Caldwell and Toiya referred to critical shortages of health-care equipment and supplies, but offered few specifics.
Here is the list of essential businesses that are exempt from Caldwell’s order:
>> Health care operations and essential infrastructure
>> Establishments engaged in the retail sale of food and other household consumer products
>> Food cultivation
>> Service providers for homeless or impoverished individuals
>> Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services
>> Gas stations and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities
>> Banks and related financial institutions
>> Hardware stores
>> Maintenance service providers, i.e. plumbers, electricians, exterminators, etc.
>> Businesses providing mailing and shipping and delivery services
>> Educational institutions providing distance learning
>> Laundry service providers
>> Facilities that prepare and serve food, but only for delivery or carry out
>> Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home
>> Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate
>> Airlines, taxis, and other private transportation providers
>> Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children, and/or people with developmental disabilities
>> Residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, and children, and/or people with developmental disabilities
>> Professional services, such as legal or accounting services
>> Childcare facilities providing services that enable employees exempted in this order to work as permitted
>> Businesses that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for animals
>> Funeral, mortuary, cremation, burial, cemetery, and related services
>> Critical trades
>> Critical labor union functions that are essential activities.