Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell this afternoon laid out his four criteria that would lead to modifications of the current “stay-at-home” order in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Caldwell said his first criterion would be if the total number of confirmed cases continues to decline and stays down for 14 days, while testing in the community continues.
Another criterion is whether Hawaii has sufficient personal protection equipment for all health care workers and first responders. One of the main reasons for “flattening the curve,” he said, was to buy time in the state so that intensive care units would not be overwhelmed, and so that the state would not have to face “who lives, and who dies” scenarios that have occurred in New York and Italy.
Also, Caldwell said a well-established system for contact tracing should be in place so that those who test positive for the new coronavirus can be isolated. There should also be designated facilities where those with the new coronavirus can be cared for if they do not need to be hospitalized, he said.
Last, but not least, he said Honolulu residents would have to continue practicing social distancing and continue wearing non-medical face masks to help stop the spread of the virus.
“I believe that we’re going to be wearing masks for a long time,” he said.
Caldwell made these announcements as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Hawaii rose to 541 today, up 11 from Wednesday. Of the total, 373 cases are on Oahu.
“This is not about ripping off the band-aid and saying, come May 1st, our stay-at-home, work-at-home order is abolished, and we can come out and celebrate,” he said. “What it means, as we go forward, over many, many months, the stay-at-home, work-at-home order will remain in place, but it will be modified…We’ll continue to modify it and open up things, make businesses that are non-essential, make them essential, with conditions, so that we can start to come back out, that we can start to rescue our economy, save our small businesses…but it has to be thought out, it has to be very careful and it is based on science.”
The mayor said people would also have to continue refraining from hugging, or shaking hands for a long time, as well as congregating, which includes sitting together to watch football or volleyball games, or attending a symphony or rock concert at Blaisdell Center.
Those types of large-crowd events will not happen until the very end of the pandemic, he said.
Any easing of the order would also take place incrementally, the mayor said. For instance, maybe a small business might be able to open up, but continue practicing social distancing, with both employees and customers wearing face masks.
It would be from “small to big,” he said, with continued testing and contact tracing to keep the virus in check.
“If we see a spike, we may actually pull back,” he said. “We don’t want to come back out and have a huge spike.”
Caldwell continued to emphasize the importance of wearing non-medical face masks. Under his newest order, starting Monday, anyone patronizing an essential business in Honolulu must wear a non-medical face mask, as well as while riding TheBus or TheHandi-Van.
Exceptions include those under the age of 5, those with asthma or other breathing-related health conditions, first responders, and those visiting banks or other financial institutions. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, face coverings should not be placed on children under the age of 2.
The city has partnered with an initiative, every1nehawaii.com, to provide anyone in need of a fabric face mask with a network of volunteers that are making them. Since the mandate was announced on Monday, the initiative has fielded more than 6,500 online requests, and is working on distributing the masks to those who need it. Requests should be placed by 4 p.m. on Friday.
Anyone who does not have online access, and would like to request a fabric face mask can call the city at 768-CITY.
Jon Nouchi, deputy director of the city Department of Transportation Services, said there would be a grace period on Monday and Tuesday for passengers not wearing a cloth face mask boarding buses and vans. However, starting on Wednesday, those not wearing one will be denied boarding.
To assist, the department will be offering free, fabric face masks from every1nehawaii.com to passengers waiting at bus stops during its roving patrols.
Caldwell also announced his intention to crack down on visitors giving invalid addresses, or coming to the state and staying in vacation rentals, which are not considered essential businesses under his emergency “stay at home” order.
“We really wish right now, visitors would not travel here,” said Caldwell. “When they travel, the virus travels.”
Caldwell said the city needs better information from passengers arriving at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu on where they are staying, including the actual apartment number in a condominium or complex.
“That requires an exact address of where they’re going, down to the apartment number,” he said. “If they don’t have it, they need to get it.”
In addition, Caldwell said passengers may not stay at a vacation rental under his emergency order. These vacation rentals, in turn, including Airbnb, need to stop advertising, he said, and put the proper messages on their websites informing potential renters of the current situation.
If someone shows up at the Honolulu airport with no address of a hotel, which is considered an essential business, then they should be sent back, he said.
On Monday, Caldwell said a person who landed at the airport put down a commercial establishment as the address of where they were staying. In actuality, they had nowhere to stay and then proceeded to travel to different places on the island, including Waimanalo.
Police found the person, cited them, and subsequently arrested them for continuing to disregard the order. The person remains in jail, he said, pending the post of $500 bail.
All short-term rentals — including those with certificates —are supposed to cease operations at this time, said city Department of Planning and Permitting Acting Director Kathy Sokugawa.
She said letters would be going out to all B&B and vacation rental owners, warning them of the current order and how it applies to them, as well as the appropriate messaging they must post online.
In addition, the department will be coordinating efforts to better enforce illegal arrivals with the airport and tourism industry. This would include fine-tuning the questions asked of people getting off of planes at the airport. Violations of the order can be reported at this link.
Caldwell also called for a continuation of testing, and an increase in testing. Several more free community testing events for the new coronavirus will take place at multiple sites around Oahu this weekend as well as next week.
He made clear, as well, that the city has no intentions of implementing furloughs for city workers at this time.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell is holding a press conference at Honolulu Hale to discuss the criteria to modify his Stay at Home/Work form Home order amid the coronavirus outbreak in Hawaii.
Speakers, besides Caldwell, are expected to include Department of Planning and Permitting Acting Director Kathy Sokugawa, Department of Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura, Department of Housing Executive Director Marc Alexander, and Department of Transportation Services Deputy Director Jon Nouchi.
Watch the livestream video above.
Editor’s Note: This story is developing and will be updated as soon as more information becomes available.