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Honolulu Hale closed, satellite city halls on limited service

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced a cluster of cases at Honolulu Hale, prompting the closure of the building. Above, medical workers with Premier Medical Group administered COVID-19 tests Monday to Honolulu city workers at Honolulu Hale. More than 1,000 employees were expected to be tested.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced a cluster of cases at Honolulu Hale, prompting the closure of the building. Above, medical workers with Premier Medical Group administered COVID-19 tests Monday to Honolulu city workers at Honolulu Hale. More than 1,000 employees were expected to be tested.

Honolulu Hale is shutting down to the public due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases there, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Monday.

In conjunction with that decision, City Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson said Wednesday’s monthly full Council meeting, as well as upcoming committee meetings, will be pushed back by a week.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 people from the Honolulu Hale complex — including the Mission Memorial buildings and the Frank Fasi Municipal Building — were expected to be tested Monday. Caldwell, who showed up at his press conference with his briefcase in hand, said he himself was going home immediately afterward to self-quarantine. He later tested negative.

“Sadly, we do have clusters here at the Hale,” the mayor said.

City officials said they know of 11 employees inside Honolulu Hale who had tested positive. Caldwell said one of them is from his own personal administrative staff of five people.

An additional 38 city employees have tested positive, for 49 total. Most of them had been previously announced, including 14 firefighters. The others reported by the city: nine each in Budget and Fiscal Services and the Honolulu Police Department; three in the Board of Water Supply; two each in Environmental Services, Parks and Recreation, Honolulu Emergency Serv­ices Department, and Department of Community Services; and one each in Design and Construction, Human Resources, Facility Maintenance, the Clerk’s Office, Enterprise Services, and in the Mayor’s Office.

No one from the public will be allowed into City Hall effective today “except for very limited purposes of coming in to make payments that absolutely need to be made.”

The city’s Treasury, Real Property Tax and Purchasing divisions are housed on the ground floor of the building and are frequently visited by the public.

Caldwell also said that the nearby Frank Fasi Municipal Building, where a majority of city agencies have offices, will be closed except for those who have urgent, immediate business such as the drop-off of payments and other documents.

The city’s satellite city halls and driver licensing centers will remain open, “but for appointment only … for critical things like renewing your driver’s license or getting your driver’s test completed.”

About 1,500 employees at the Honolulu Hale complex, including the municipal building, were being offered the chance to be tested today. The testing was not mandatory, Caldwell spokesman Alexander Zannes said.

“We’re asking all city workers to work from home whenever possible … telecommute, stay away from each other, protect yourself and slow down the spread of this virus,” Caldwell said.

Dr. Scott Miscovich, who is heading the Premier Medical Group team conducting the testing at City Hall, said he expected to test more than 1,000 employees through Monday.

Flocks of people showed up at Honolulu Hale last week to vote or drop off their votes by Saturday’s 7 p.m. primary election deadline.

Miscovich said he did not believe anyone from the public who showed up for voting last week was exposed to anyone with the coronavirus while there, and that he did not think they need to be tested.

Miscovich said he supported the city’s decision to leave the building open for voting despite the positive cases. The first-floor courtyard where voting was occurring has a high ceiling and wide-open doors, allowing air to circulate easily. What’s more, none of the positive cases in the building came from people working in the Elections Division, he said.

Anderson said the Council may hold its meeting on Aug. 20, but that no final decision has been made. Committee meetings that were scheduled for next week also have been postponed.

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