Mayor Kirk Caldwell said today he is extending the stay-at-home, work-from-home order “with modifications” for Honolulu through May and is reopening city parks for exercise only, beginning 5 a.m. Saturday.
He also announced a $2 million program for about 10,000 more COVID-19 tests to be conducted by community centers around the island who provide health care for underserved populations. “In order to open up, we need to do more testing, a lot more testing,” he said.
Caldwell’s original stay-at-home, work-from-home order was set to expire at the end of the month.
At today’s press conference, Caldwell said some businesses may be allowed to open before May 31 if it is safe to do so. “If this (new positive coronavirus cases) stays low, we can start talking about opening up other things too — in a phased way,” Caldwell said.
“We’re not going to be returning to a new normal anytime soon …. not until there’s new treatment therapies that are aggressive and really show that if you get sick, you’re treated rapidly and you become well,” Caldwell said. “The end game is really a vaccine, which they project is 18 months away, 24 months away.”
The idea is to slowly reopen segments of society as safety allows “and at the end of the day, the order will disappear end and we’ll return to the life we lived before the pandemic struck.”
He said he expects sports or other entertainment events may be the last to reopen because they entail large numbers of people gathering in confined areas. “That doesn’t mean … we’re not going to see sports won’t be played, but we’ll be watching from afar, from our TV screens but not in person sitting in bleachers.”
Caldwell said 300 city parks will reopen Saturday, but for running, jogging,walking and other exercise that allows for safe social distancing only. Team sports and use of playground equipment are disallowed because they carry a larger potential for spreading of COVID-19.
The city’s five botanical gardens will open May 1, the mayor said. Hanauma Bay will not reopen because it is usually used for sunbathing and not exercise.
Six community health centers that care for the underserved populations are participating. They include the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, the Waikiki Health Center, the Waimanalo Health Center
The city will pay for the test kits as well as for the testing to be conducted. The health centers are also being provided with personal protective equipment for those conducting the tests.
Those found to be positive would need to self-isolate. “If they can’t be cared for in their homes because they’re multi-generational, the city’s prepared to enter into an agreement with a small hotel chain in Waikiki that would allow them to stay in the rooms for free — for those who cannot stay with their family.”
Each of the centers are also being given $20,000 to develop tele-health care infrastructure “so that they can talk to their patients online and not require them to come in and be talked to,” the mayor said.
UPS is providing the delivery and collection of the tests as part of a national program.
Councilman Joey Manahan said UPS also donated to the city 20,000 N-95 masks for Honolulu’s first responders. The city had been having trouble procuring masks because it needs to bid with other state and municipal governments for the equipment, he said.