Hawaii florists are the latest group to be swept into confusion by Gov. David Ige’s administration in response to the new coronavirus.
Previously, beachgoers were unsure about whether they could exercise on the beach. Ige’s latest proclamation now says you can.
Reece Farinas, sales and marketing director of Beretania Florist, said he was concerned his business could get stuck with thousands of flowers that it cannot sell for Mother’s Day because Ige’s administration has sent confusing messages about whether flower shops can have a business exemption to make contactless deliveries.
“A lot of florists, not just us, rely on the revenue from a major holiday like Mother’s Day to operate comfortably and to keep everything going and to have momentum into the summer, which is historically a slower time for retail florists,” Farinas said.
He said florists were panicking last week when Mayor Kirk Caldwell extended the stay-at-home order to the end of May. But he became hopeful after hearing news reports that the Ige administration issued an exemption to florists to make deliveries for Mother’s Day, which is May 10 this year.
“It was exciting,” Farinas said. “We ordered quite a bit of flowers and plants in preparation for Mother’s Day.”
Farinas, whose family has owned the 82-year-old Makiki business for four generations, said he placed all his orders within a couple of days because Mother’s Day was only a little over two weeks away. Then during Saturday’s news conference, Ige said the exemption for florists had not been approved.
“I think that permission was granted prematurely,” Ige said. “I was not aware that it was actually granted, and the person authorizing it did not have the authority.”
He said officials will be “looking business by business and industry by industry to see what the best practices are, and we will be making a decision about florists in the future.”
Farinas, who was watching the news conference with his wife, said he was shocked.
“I’m sure every other single florist in the state was in the same position.”
Besides florists, some mayors had concerns about Ige’s news conference. Caldwell objected to Ige requiring that all county mayors submit their plans to the governor for approval before publication to reduce public confusion. Caldwell said it would cut into the mayors’ ability to lead.
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said in a statement Sunday, “The county mayors still need the flexibility and power to make immediate changes to protect the health and safety of our communities and we will continue to advocate for the needs of our people.”
But Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said in his Sunday Facebook update that Kauai officials are “not worried about it.”
“As far as sending up any rule changes to the governor or through Gen. (Kenneth) Hara, we have already been doing that as part of our standard operating procedures,” he said. “It’s really to coordinate the communication and to avoid future confusion.”
He said Ige’s office has agreed to respond to proposed county changes within 24 hours.
While discussing the status of the coronavirus on Kauai, Kawakami said 14 days had passed without new cases on the island, and county officials were looking at loosening some restrictions May 3.
Kawakami’s comments came on the same day that only two people tested positive for COVID-19 in Hawaii, bringing the statewide total to 606. Both were minors: one from Oahu, the other from Hawaii island. Fourteen people have died in Hawaii from COVID-19.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said in a Facebook post Sunday that Hawaii has “flattened the curve” while keeping kupuna safe and has the lowest mortality rate in the nation at 0.8%.
“Next week we can turn of all our attention towards the beginnings of opening business, restoring our economy, and really, restoring hope for the future in Hawaii,” Green said.
Eighty percent of those who have tested positive in Hawaii have recovered, while 68 people have required hospitalization, according to the state Department of Health.
One of those recovering from COVID-19 was Edward Nakamura, a 61-year-old Wahiawa man, who was applauded by hospital staff Sunday while being discharged from Pali Momi Medical Center.
Nakamura had gone to the hospital’s emergency room April 9 with shortness of breath and spent eight days on a ventilator and 16 days at the hospital. He said in a statement that he was looking forward to “getting back to fishing.”
One of his many doctors, Dr. Emilio Ganitano, who is also medical director of Pali Momi’s intensive care unit, said Nakamura initially tested negative for the coronavirus, but health care workers considered his overall condition and gave him a second test, which came back positive.
Before recovering, Nakamura was in the intensive care unit with pneumonia and respiratory failure. Ganitano credited the hospital team with working together to give Nakamura a chance to recover.
“For our COVID-19 patients, because there’s not been one proven treatment, the goal really is to give the patients supportive care, support his body until his body can get a chance to heal,” he said. “I think that’s been really what we did for this patient and why he got better.”
He said Hawaii Pacific Health, which Pali Momi is a part of, has done a lot to prepare for the pandemic, including requiring additional personal protective equipment for all patients, such as eye protection, gloves and face masks.
He said the public has been helpful by practicing social distancing and trying to stay at home.
“I think the hospitals fortunately didn’t have that huge surge, so that’s helped us take care of the few COVID patients that we did have,” he said. “Because we can do our job well, we’re not overwhelmed, we can help patients just like this get better.”
He said the hospital continues to prepare for a possible surge because there are historically multiple waves of an outbreak, adding that the state will have to be careful while taking steps to reopen.
Meanwhile, visitors continued to arrive in Hawaii on Saturday, despite the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers. Of the 542 passengers who arrived, including residents, crew members and intended residents, 135 of them were visitors. At this time last year, Hawaii was receiving 30,000 passengers a day.
As for the florists, they were hoping Ige would make a quick decision on the business exemption so they could start preparing orders before May 10.
Monty Pereira, general manager of Watanabe Floral, said he received verbal confirmation Wednesday that the state would approve his exemption and a confirmation email Thursday, which he shared with other florists. On Friday he received another email, saying the exemption was rescinded.
He said the reason his company asked for an exemption was to help mothers, especially the vulnerable and those in senior homes who should not receive visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said flowers can have a positive impact on people’s mental state and psychology.
“It is absolutely heartbreaking,” he said. “We believe we can make a positive difference. We asked specifically so we can take care of mom.”