Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell understands that some residents and business owners are frustrated with the city’s four-tier reopening framework, but said his office is sticking to the plan and will not be making new exemptions any time soon.
“If we announce a plan and immediately start amending the plan to allow different things to occur, it no longer is a plan. It’s just a wish that gets modified based on requests,” Caldwell said. “So I think we gotta stay this course even though I understand the frustration and I understand the difficulty.”
Honolulu could move to Tier 2 with fewer restrictions by Oct. 24, if the case count stays within 50 to 100 new cases per day. With transpacific travel set to re-open next week, Caldwell said it is important for Oahu residents to remain vigilant so that if visitors or returning residents bring in new coronavirus cases, they do not overwhelm the healthcare system and force new restrictions. Caldwell said he would prefer two tests, one before and another after arrival, but as it stands now Hawaii simply does not have the capacity to do that.
“20% of our economy on Oahu is visitor-related, and how do we open up in a safe way? And I believe one test weeds out a lot of folks. It doesn’t weed everyone out and there’s risk in it,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said he expects visitor arrivals will be slow to start and said that will give officials a chance to learn and adapt.
“I think you’re gonna see a trickle back and we learn from that. We get everything in place, the Safe Travels app is in place, the police are able to enforce those who are not following quarantine, we learn from that. And then we work on our testing capacity,” he said.
Caldwell said that his office is working to distribute the city’s share of CARES funding, and encouraged residents and business owners in need to visit oneoahu.org to apply for financial relief. He urged residents to continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing and act responsibly. He reminded everyone that most of the deaths in Hawaii have occurred on Oahu, including three new fatalities reported today.
“We need to hold the line, we need to be patient, and we need to remind ourselves the virus is out there — it can come roaring back,” Caldwell said. “It can affect even children and we need to understand that until there’s a vaccine and enough people are vaccinated, we need to live a different lifestyle for a long time to come. Maybe another year.”
With Halloween and the holidays approaching, Caldwell said residents will have to adapt and understand that the traditional celebrations will look different this year. Caldwell said the Salvation Army informed him this week that they will not be hosting their annual Thanksgiving meal at the Neal Blaisdell, an event that draws thousands and would have celebrated 50 years this November. He reminded everyone how the public acts now will have a great impact in the weeks and months to come.
“We could be facing another stay-at-home, work-at-home order as we enter the holidays, one of the most special times of the year, where we’re all in our homes and not together,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said that could be avoided with the right actions.
“We have to accept the fact that we’re not going to be able to go back to where we were for a long time to come. We’re just going to have to accept that. And we’re gonna have to adjust how we live on this very fragile island in a pandemic,” Caldwell said. “Let’s care for each other, love each other through our actions, our everyday actions, so we’re safe, we don’t get other people sick, and we can start to return to a more fuller life.”
Spotlight Hawaii, which shines a light on issues affecting Hawaii, airs live 10:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Facebook page. Join Ryan Kalei Tsuji and Yunji de Nies this month for a conversation with guests. Click here to watch previous conversations.