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Hawaii News

Officials will decide whether to extend Oahu curfew until end of April

BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Dr. Scott McCaffrey leaned into a vehicle Thursday to perform a nasal swab to test for the new coronavirus. Free public drive-thru testing for COVID-19 was held at the Waianae Boat Harbor by Premier Medical Group Hawaii.
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BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM

Dr. Scott McCaffrey leaned into a vehicle Thursday to perform a nasal swab to test for the new coronavirus. Free public drive-thru testing for COVID-19 was held at the Waianae Boat Harbor by Premier Medical Group Hawaii.

BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Motorists lined up Thursday at a free public drive-thru testing site at the Waianae Boat Harbor.
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BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM

Motorists lined up Thursday at a free public drive-thru testing site at the Waianae Boat Harbor.

BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Nurse practitioner Chris Tomlinson prepared to perform a nasal swab on a motorist.
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Swipe or click to see more

BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM

Nurse practitioner Chris Tomlinson prepared to perform a nasal swab on a motorist.

BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Dr. Scott McCaffrey leaned into a vehicle Thursday to perform a nasal swab to test for the new coronavirus. Free public drive-thru testing for COVID-19 was held at the Waianae Boat Harbor by Premier Medical Group Hawaii.
BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Motorists lined up Thursday at a free public drive-thru testing site at the Waianae Boat Harbor.
BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Nurse practitioner Chris Tomlinson prepared to perform a nasal swab on a motorist.

Honolulu police will enforce a nighttime curfew this weekend in a move intended to stem the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Police Chief Susan Ballard announced the pilot curfew Thursday, saying people will be prohibited from driving vehicles and other wheeled means of transport from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tonight through Monday morning.

A decision likely will be made Monday whether to extend the curfew through April 30, Ballard said.

“It is a pilot program,” Caldwell said. “Perhaps it won’t have to happen again, or perhaps it will if we don’t see the results that we’re hoping for.”

Shortly after Caldwell’s announcement, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said Maui would also enforce an 11 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Kauai on March 18 was the first county to issue a curfew. The Kauai curfew is from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily and runs until May 3.

The latest restrictions were unveiled on a day that the state Department of Health announced only seven new cases of COVID-19 — the lowest total in almost a month — although officials noted that the rate of positive coronavirus cases remained steady at 2.7% of tests.

Health officials also said well over half of the 442 people who have come down with the virus in Hawaii — 251 — have recovered and only 42 have required hospitalization since the outbreak started, including no new cases Thursday.

Health officials also reported that 138 additional people were “released from isolation” as of noon Thursday.

No new COVID-19 fatalities were reported Thursday, leaving the state’s death toll at six, with four occurring on Oahu and two on Maui.

DOH said seven crew members on the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America cruise ship, currently docked in Honolulu, have tested positive for COVID-19 and are in isolation. Their close contacts have also been placed in quarantine.

About 300 healthy crew members are getting off the ship and going directly to the airport to travel to their homes, where they will self-quarantine for 14 days, DOH said. Another 200 crew will sail the ship to the mainland and into dry dock.

At a news conference at Honolulu Hale, Caldwell said the social distancing measures that have been instituted to try to undercut the virus and “flatten the curve” appear to be working. They include stay-at-home orders and the 14-day quarantines for travelers.

“What we do in the coming days and weeks is going to make a tremendous difference,” he said. “This is no time to let our guard down.”

As for the curfew, Caldwell said officials were wary about what could happen over the Easter weekend.

“We are concerned that people are going to think, ‘Wow, it’s time to go out and do things,’ and we don’t want that to happen,” he said.

Ballard said exceptions to the curfew will be made for those traveling to and from essential workplaces, making deliveries, driving security vehicles, picking up medications and going to a hospital in an emergency.

Activities such as shopping and picking up to-go food will not be allowed, she said.

Violation of the order is punishable as a misdemeanor with maximum penalties of a $5,000 fine and a year in jail.

“Unless it’s essential, stay off the road,” Caldwell said.

The curfew affects only those who are out driving or riding. “We would prefer that you don’t walk (at those times), but as long as you’re not on wheels, you’re going to be safe,” the chief said.

ACLU of Hawaii Legal Director Mateo Caballero expressed concern about the curfew.

“We have not seen or reviewed the curfew order, which the city has not yet published on its website,” Caballero said late Thursday afternoon in a statement. “At this point, we have several questions about the exceptions and the reasoning behind the curfew, which as far as we know no public health official has called for.”

Caballero said the ACLU will be watching closely to see how the city implements and enforces the order.

“We call on law enforcement to be particularly careful on how it enforces a curfew order that was issued barely 24 hours before going into effect,” he said.

The organization late last month sent a letter to Ballard urging the department to seek voluntary compliance and to keep the public-health purpose of the restrictions in mind.

At the news conference, Ballard said additional officers will be on duty for stepped-up enforcement of traffic laws and the stay-at-home order, including the prohibition on hanging out at beach parks.

Oahu’s beach parks attracted hundreds of people last weekend.

Ballard said jogging, walking and riding on beach paths and walkways is not allowed. The public is permitted only on the ocean side of the beach’s high- water mark, which is generally where the vegetation meets the sand. Water play is fine but no congregating is allowed, officials said.

Thursday’s statewide total of confirmed coronavirus infections included 334 cases on Oahu, 57 in Maui County, 28 on Hawaii island and 18 on Kauai, according to health officials.

The statewide total also included two Hawaii residents diagnosed outside of the state and three cases pending identification of county.

In total, state officials Thursday reported six new cases on Oahu, two on Hawaii island and three in Maui County but no new cases on Kauai. Health officials noted that the sum of changes by county is “larger than the number of statewide newly reported cases because of previously reported pending cases being reclassified to county totals as more information is collected.”

By county, Honolulu has seen 188 patients recover, Maui has had 31 recoveries, the Big Island has had 21 and Kauai has seen 11, officials said.