During the recent spate of emergency orders issued by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell to combat Oahu’s four-week COVID-19 surge, questions to the City of Honolulu’s COVID-19 Information Hotline have been proliferating, according to Brandi Higa, information officer for the mayor’s office.
Therefore, starting Saturday, the call center will stay open weekends, too.
“We are expanding to weekend hours because of the number of inquiries we had over the weekend and the anticipated increase this weekend, given that it will be the first weekend of the new Stay At Home Order,” Higa wrote in an email, referring to the mayor’s 14-day, second Stay-at-Home/Work-at-Home Order No. 20-25, which was announced Tuesday, took effect Thursday and is slated to be in effect through Sept. 9.
Last week and the weekend, the center received a surge in questions following Caldwell’s Aug. 19 issuance of his Act Now Honolulu – No Social Gatherings Order No. 20-24, itself following closely on the heels of his Aug. 7 Act With Care – Do Not Gather Order No. 20-23.
Last weekend between Friday, when the office was closed for Statehood Day, and Sunday, the hotline received roughly 500 missed calls and about 400 email inquiries, many concerning the “no gathering” emergency order, according to Molly Pierce at the city’s Office of Economic Revitalization, which oversees the call center.
Hotline staff answered 209 calls Monday, 403 calls Tuesday and 494 calls as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the day the mayor’s new emergency order was announced; a total of about 500 emails was received over the three days, Pierce said.
Under the latest order, only essential businesses and services can remain open, with takeout-only allowed at restaurants, and no social gatherings of any number are allowed in public or private.
But those ready to move in together can do so: While a couple, say, who live in separate residences can no longer get together because “their meeting would constitute a social gathering,” Pierce wrote, the rule does not ban people from starting new households together.
“If both individuals move in together permanently they would now be from the same household and their situation would not constitute a social gathering,” Pierce wrote, explaining that, “for purposes of the emergency order, lodging is not a social gathering.”
In addition, there is no restriction on the number of new, trans-Pacific arrivals that can be hosted by a Honolulu resident in his or her home, so long as they remain quarantined for 14 days as mandated by the state.
“There is not a limit on the number of individuals who can quarantine at a private residence as guests of the permanent resident,” Pierce wrote, so long as “all individuals practice physical distancing while any individual in the home is subject to quarantine.”
“Fortunately,” she added, “the vast majority (of the questions) can be answered by the FAQs listed on the city’s oneoahu.org website, which has been updated to address the latest order.
The city’s emergency orders are posted at honolulu.gov/mayor/proclamations-orders-and-rules. If you have questions, see oneoahu.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the information hotline at 808-768-CITY (2489), open from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.