After taking some heat on his decision to block flower shops from opening for Mother’s Day deliveries, Gov. David Ige announced Monday that moms in Hawaii will be getting their flowers after all.
Ige said he met with the state’s four mayors Monday afternoon and decided that florists can indeed conduct their business while keeping employees and the public safe from COVID-19.
“We expect it will be a better Mother’s Day as a result of this decision,” the governor said during a Facebook Live video feed.
Meanwhile, officials announced that Hawaii’s COVID-19 death toll climbed to 16, while the total count of coronavirus cases increased by just one, to 607.
State health officials said the 16th death was an Oahu woman who was over 65 years old. The woman had underlying conditions and had been hospitalized since early April. Officials said they are investigating whether the infection was travel-related or a result of community spread.
The department announced late Sunday night that an Oahu man with COVID-19 and underlying health conditions had died earlier in the evening, becoming the state’s 15th coronavirus-related fatality.
Health officials Monday also confirmed that Hawaii’s latest coronavirus case is a worker at the Maui Memorial Medical Center, the site of nearly 60 infections, both hospital workers and patients, and the state’s largest cluster, accounting for more than half of Maui County’s 113 COVID-19 infections.
Maui Health, the company that operates Maui Memorial, said it was a Maui Medical Group employee who provides care to patients at Maui’s largest hospital who tested positive for COVID-19.
According to Maui Health, the employee was tested for COVID-19 two weeks ago by Maui Medical Group, was asymptomatic, and the results came back negative.
But last week the employee became symptomatic and then self-quarantined at home before a repeat test was conducted Friday. This time the results came back Sunday as positive for COVID-19.
“We are saddened by this news,” Mike Rembis, CEO, Maui Health, said in a news release. “But we understand that the possibility of additional positive COVID-19 tests is the reality of this pandemic.”
Rembis said the hospital is mobilizing protocols for contact tracing, isolating and testing patients, while affected employees are being tested and quarantined.
Rembis said an initial investigation found that the provider always wore personal protective equipment, including an N95 mask when appropriate, while caring for patients.
Dr. David Ulin, Maui Health chief medical director, said exposure of others is deemed low-risk due to increased safety measures at the hospital, including daily fever and symptom screening and masking at all times.
Nevertheless, Maui Health’s contact-tracing team is now identifying and contacting patients and employees who may have been in contact with the provider so they can be tested for COVID-19, he said.
The company also said it is screening and testing any staff members exhibiting any COVID-like symptoms and offering paid leave for anyone asked to self-isolate or quarantine at home.
On Monday morning Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he would be looking into the possibility of allowing flower shops to operate, but he was still standing by a story that someone in his administration without the authority granted florists permission to open.
Florists complained that they had ordered thousands of Mother’s Day flowers and plants based on the state’s word and that now they would be taking a huge loss.
Ige got plenty of pushback, including from the mayor of Maui, who sent a letter to the governor Monday formally asking to allow floral deliveries in his county.
In his letter, Michael Victorino said florists would have no problem incorporating social distancing and safety modifications to protect the health of both customers and employees.
“It is especially important that we allow this service during these unprecedented and uncertain times. Continuing traditions like buying flowers for our mothers helps us convey appreciation and celebrate at a time when we cannot gather together,” the mayor wrote.
There was also an online petition signed by more than 5,000 people and backed by floral industry groups and the Hawaii Farm Bureau.
Ige announced his change of heart Monday evening following a meeting with the four county mayors. He said flower shops would be among the first nonessential businesses to open Friday.
Reece Farinas of family- owned Beretania Florist in Honolulu said he was excited by the news.
“It’s a big relief,” he said. “It will mean a substantial amount of revenue that we depend on going into the slow summer months.”