Discussions For Oʻahu's Second Reopening Underway

Aug 28, 2020

Oʻahu is under a lockdown for the next two weeks because of COVID-19. But discussions have already started on reopening. This time, city officials hope to learn from the mistakes that followed the first reopening.

It's been a day since Oʻahu's second "stay at home, work from home" order went into effect. The order shut down non-essential businesses and kept residents pretty much at home.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell hopes this second lockdown will stop the virus spread, and give state health officials more time for contact tracing.

Meanwhile, coronavirus testing on Oʻahu has ramped up, with help from the federal government. Earlier this week, the federal government gave the city the resources to test 70,000 residents over a two-week span -- or 5,000 people a day. The turnaround time for results is between 2 to 3 days.

Caldwell emphasized testing and contact tracing remain key parts of the city's fight against COVID-19. But he's already having discussions on how the city will reopen.

"I'd like to get an outline of a plan done this week," he said. "We're going to be reaching out to the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. I've made calls to both organizations."

Caldwell says he's in no rush to reopen businesses, but would like to discuss what may not work.

Caldwell's comments echo U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams's observation earlier this week -- that the city opened too quickly.

Adams likened a reopening to light switches -- it shouldn't be an on-off switch, but a dimmer that gradually brings up the brightness.

"It doesn't have to be the cycle of open, close, open, close -- if we gradually and slowly reopen," Adams said.

"So that's what I want people to do -- is take this next two weeks, think about what they can do in their personal lives, and their work lives, and their communities, to get this disease under control. And then, when we reopen, we open with common sense, reopen with respect for the virus."

Caldwell says he's re-evaluating the city's first reopening from earlier this year, and sees what changes can be made -- such as with parks.

He says initially, park reopenings were slow with only exercise and some sports allowed before fully opening.

"We saw gatherings of a hundred people under tents all day long, no physical distancing, no face coverings," Caldwell said. "So when we open up parks again, perhaps a little bit slower in the reopening."

Caldwell says he's seriously considering a permit system to regulate the number of people allowed under a tent. Residents would have to apply for the permit through the city's Department of Parks and Recreation, and may only be allowed to 5 to 10 people per tent. And they would need to have their permits with them.

"So if HPD is going to be going around parks, and they see more than 10 [people]. They come up and say 'Let me see your permit.' And you show it, and you have 20 people in your tent -- you could be cited for violating the new rules and having tents spread further apart."

Caldwell says he will also reopen bars much later and more cautiously. He cites the recent string of liquor commission closures of restaurants that did not observe the city's cutoff for liquor sales or safety mandates.