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Kauai and Hawaii island mayors expand measures to curb the spread of coronavirus

Everyone over age 5 on Kauai must wear a cloth face mask during most activities while outside in public to curb the spread of COVID-19, according to a new county mandate.

The new order went into effect Tuesday. Exceptions to the mandate include those exercising, entering a financial institution or using an ATM machine.

The order remains in effect through May 3. Violators face a misdemeanor charge that carries penalties of up to a $5,000 fine and one year in jail.

At a daily briefing, Kauai County Mayor Derek Kawa­kami said, “As we’ve been emphasizing over the past week, masks are becoming a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19.”

“Because our community has done such a great job at heeding our emergency rules, we have so far been able to keep our number of positive cases low. If we can continue to keep our numbers low and continue to contain community transmission, we want to slowly get people back to work in a way that minimizes risk,” he said.

With the mask mandate in place, Kawakami has announced private construction activities and landscaping maintenance may resume starting today as long as workers adhere to social distancing directives.

Homeowners with existing building permits also may resume work on their residences and be assisted by two individuals. Tools must not be shared, and a hand-washing station is required to be on-site.

Real estate agents with properties in escrow are allowed to close listings. “These individuals must not take any in-person meetings unless to sign documents or view the property, not travel in the same vehicle, not have in-person open houses and only conduct due diligence or contracted activities on a property, ensuring only two persons on-site at a time,” Kawakami said.

Among the state’s counties, Kauai has the lowest number of confirmed cases: 21 as of Tuesday. Of those, 16 individuals have recovered or returned to their homes on the mainland. The five remaining cases are residents, three of whom are in isolation at home, one in isolation at a facility and one remaining in isolation at a hospital.

Kawakami reminded the public to continue practicing social distancing, frequent hand-washing and cleaning shared surfaces.

In addition to the mask mandate, changes have been made to park operations to include closures of all swimming pools, park pavilions and playgrounds. General park areas will remain open as long as the public adheres to social distancing directives.

Five parks — Lucy Wright, Salt Pond, Lydgate, Anahola and Anini — also have been designated to shelter the homeless. County officials will assist the homeless to obtain a free permit for the designated parks.

“This permitting system helps us to meet the needs of our houseless community who must shelter in place while also helping to ensure social distancing for the health and well-being of all,” Kawakami said.

He stressed the permits are not available to anyone under the 14-day mandatory quarantine.

Hawaii County, meanwhile, is asking the state to test all homeless and homeless program staff for COVID-19, according to Sharon Hirota, executive assistant to Mayor Harry Kim. The county is awaiting a response from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

The Big Island had 39 confirmed cases as of Tuesday. Of those, 28 individuals have recovered, and the remaining 11 individuals are quarantined at home.

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