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Ige, Green make case for partial opening of Hawaii’s economy

  • Video courtesy Gov. David Ige

    Gov. David Ige announced Wednesday the reopening of selective state parks around the islands.

With Hawaii on a two-week roll of single-digit cases of COVID-19 per day, Gov. David Ige and Lt. Gov. Josh Green teamed up Wednesday to explain and defend the first phase of reopening the state’s economy, which starts today.

Ige described his latest emergency proclamation allowing shopping malls and other retailers to restart business as “a careful and thoughtful” move to get people back to work.

He said the state’s robust testing capacity and strong health-care system helped his decision, in consultation with the county mayors, to reopen up the economy.

“With only one positive COVID-19 case (Wednesday), we are on the right track to get the disease under control in Hawaii,” he declared.

Green, an emergency room physician, used a series of statistics to show why it was time to reopen “the kamaaina economy,” and why the state is well positioned to handle any resurgence of cases.

He said only 51% of the state’s hospital beds are occupied.

“The national standard is that you have a 20% reserve in your hospital system in case you have a surge of infectious disease,” he said.

The state’s intensive care unit beds are at 46% use, while ventilators are at 14%, which allows for capacity on both accounts in the event of an outbreak.

“At 14%, we are very, very low and that’s good,” he said. “That means if anything were to happen, any quick change, which the governor would be more than nimble to take care of, we still have a lot of capacity to keep people alive.”

Green said the state has seen only 43.6 cases per 100,000 people, which is the second-lowest infection rate in the U.S., but the lowest among states with populations over 1 million.

What’s more, Hawaii’s 1.2 deaths per 100,000 people is the lowest mortality rate in the country.

Green said the mainland on Tuesday experienced a large increase in the daily case rate — from 20,000 to 25,000 — because restrictions are being relaxed in states where there are still plenty of cases.

Hawaii, meanwhile, is experiencing a decline in infections while demonstrating excellent crisis coordination between county and state governments, he said.

“That puts us in a very good place … as we open the economy,” Green said.

With one case Wednesday — an Oahu adult — Hawaii’s total coronavirus count has reached 626, according to state Department of Health.

A total of 558 patients have recovered since the start of the outbreak, including seven on Wednesday. More than 89% of the people who have been infected in Hawaii have been released from isolation, officials said.

Of all the confirmed Hawaii cases since the start of the outbreak, 74 have required hospitalizations, with one new hospitalization reported Wednesday, health officials said.

On Maui, Mayor Michael Victorino announced Wednesday afternoon that the governor’s latest emergency proclamation will take effect Monday.

Details about social- distancing requirements will be available today on the county’s website, said Sandy Baz, the county’s managing director.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim also issued an emergency rule Wednesday, further identifying businesses that can reopen on the Big Island, including retailers such as bicycle shops, bookstores, jewelry shops, pet groomers and surf and swimming goods shops.

The rule also opens certain parks for walking, jogging and running, and reopens private and public golf courses, including Hilo Municipal Golf Course, which will open Monday with modified rules for social distancing.

Meanwhile, Hawaii visitor arrivals continue to climb. On Wednesday, the Hawaii Tourism Authority reported that 216 out-of-state visitors came to Hawaii by air on Tuesday.

Green discounted the number.

“Please do remember — we used to get 30,000 people per day. In June of 2019 we had 650,000 individuals travel to the state of Hawaii. Now we have a very tiny fraction,” he said.

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