Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he spent part of the morning personally calling furniture stores who have reportedly been open in violation of the city’s two-week shutdown order.
Caldwell warned furniture stores, which are considered non-essential businesses under the order, that police officers may be heading their way if they stay open.
Appearing on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii Facebook livestream, Caldwell also said the city is still working with the state Department of Health for permission to hire between 250 and 500 contact tracers, and that he’s negotiating to have two more Oahu hotels open that can accommodate residents who need to quarantine or isolate as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
After hearing complaints that several, mainland-based furniture stores are continuing to open for retail business despite the lockdown order, Caldwell said he personally called them for confirmation. When store representatives told him they were open because they’re essential businesses, he warned them that continuing operations would lead to a visit from police.
“Many, many reputable businesses are following the Work at Home, Stay at Home order if they’re not essential, companies like C.S. Wo, Inspiration have closed their doors to the public to help control the spread of this virus. And then we do have irresponsible businesses … many of them they’re not local businesses, they have branches here but they’re run by corporations outside the state of Hawaii, and they don’t seem to care,” Caldwell said.
That could lead to a longer shutdown, more illnesses and deaths, he said.
“I’m going to make it a personal goal of mine to call businesses when I hear they’re open, to talk to them,” Caldwell said. “And if they don’t shut down, police officers will show up at their doors and warn them if they don’t shut down, they’ll be cited and they can go to court and explain to the judge why they refuse to keep the people of Hawaii safe.”
Caldwell said a memorandum of understanding being discussed with the Health Department will allow the city to hire more up to 500 more contact tracers. “We know we need about 400-450 for a population of a million people like Oahu,” he said. “If we have extra, I think that’s better than not having enough.”
The city has already found one hotel for people to quarantine and isolate if need be because they have tested positive for COVID-19, have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive or otherwise need help to quarantine or isolate.
“We worked with the Department of Health to have it managed for COVID positives or those who have come in close contact, and we’re working at retaining two more hotels,” Caldwell said. “We’d like to see maybe up to 700 hotel rooms ready to go as we do the surge testing and people need to be isolated, particularly multi-generational households, can be provide a place for them to be isolated and cared for.”