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Gov. David Ige announces statewide business, travel restrictions to limit coronavirus’ spread

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Gov. David Ige announced new statewide restrictions Monday on the movements and activities of Hawaii residents to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in Hawaii, but the order includes a long list of work and other activities that still will be allowed.

State officials also announced they will extend state corporate and personal income tax filing deadlines from April 20 to July 20 to allow some state residents and businesses to hold more of their cash for an extra three months. Federal officials announced an extension of the federal tax filing deadline last week.

The activity restrictions announced by Ige on Monday are designed to get people to mostly stay home except for travel to and from what are deemed to be “essential” businesses or operations that cannot be handled online or through other remote technology. The order states that work at all other noncritical businesses must cease.

Up to now the counties have each adopted their own restrictions on the movements of residents and visitors during the COVID-19 crisis, ranging from a nighttime curfew on Kauai to Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s announcement Sunday that he is imposing a limited lockdown for Honolulu.

The new state policy essentially matches the policies of Honolulu and Maui, meaning residents will mostly be required to stay home and work from home. Outside exercise will be allowed but “social distancing” is required.

Caldwell’s order took effect at 4:30 p.m. Monday, and requires all residents to stay and work from home through April 30. Ige’s new statewide order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Failure to comply with the order will be punishable by fines of up to $5,000 and a year in jail.

“These actions are extreme but necessary for us to flatten the curve, and lay the groundwork for our recovery,” Ige told reporters Monday in a conference call.

Hawaii island thus far has not imposed mandatory restrictions of the movements of residents and visitors apart from closing shoreline access. Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said he has no problem with the new restrictions but held off on imposing them himself because Hawaii island had not yet reached what he considered the appropriate threshold.

Thus far there has been no sign of community spread of the virus in Hawaii County, which would have been a trigger to “go to the next threshold,” he said. The county has had only five confirmed coronavirus cases, including two people who are quarantined at home and one who has fully recovered and returned home to the mainland.

Statewide there have been 3,300 tests completed, with the state identifying 77 confirmed coronavirus cases. Of those, 53 are on Oahu, 11 on Maui and three on Kauai. There are also five “pending” cases.

Kim said he is worried about the damage that the closure will do to the Hawaii County economy, and told his staff at a Monday morning meeting, “Guys, we’re going to see an economic impact I don’t think any of us have ever seen.”

“One of our responsibilities is the economy,” said Kim, who said he asked state officials to take a closer look at the list of which companies are deemed essential and which are not.

In discussions with state and county leaders, Kim said he made the point that “the goal of the closures is the disease. So, how does, for example, closing garden supply stores, or furniture stores, or bicycle repair shops, or clothing boutiques … I really wish we would consider, are these necessary to close? Because the vast majority of them in Hawaii — especially on Hawaii island — are small-business people.”

The new state order does include a long list of businesses and activities that are considered essential and will stay open, including health care, grocery stores, many retailers, food and beverage production, animal shelters, charitable organizations, media, gas stations and auto repair shops, and hardware stores.

Also excluded from the closure order are financial institutions, laundry facilities, shipping and delivery operations, construction companies, takeout restaurants, transportation companies, home-care services, professional services and child care facilities for the children of essential workers.

Hotels are also excluded, as are emergency responders and a variety of other government workers. People are also allowed to be out and about for shopping for supplies, for exercise and to walk pets.

That lengthy list of business that will stay open has also raised questions about whether the “stay at home, work from home” order will be effective.

“Everyone in our community needs to understand that we can only be successful if everyone takes responsibility for those actions,” Ige said. “Everyone should limit being out and about. They should be going to work and then going home, and if they need to get food or other necessities, then they should be doing that.”

“I think if everybody focuses on that, and if everyone commits to doing their part, to help us in this aspect, then we will be successful in bending the curve,” he said.

As part of that effort, Ige announced over the weekend a mandatory two-week quarantine starting Thursday for anyone arriving in Hawaii from the mainland or on international flights.

He said Monday that airline industry officials believe with that order, “traffic into the islands will be reduced to only essential travel. There will be virtually no leisure travel occurring.”

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