Hawaii Updates: Honolulu, Maui Mayors Order Residents To Stay At Home If Not Essential Workers

Mar 22, 2020

Updated: 3/22/20, 7:03 p.m.

As the number of coronavirus cases in Hawaii climbs to 56, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Maui Mayor Michael Victorino are ordering residents to stay at home and work at home if they aren't essential workers, following the lead of San Francisco and other jurisdictions.

Caldwell's emergency order, effective at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow, and Victorino's emergency rules that take effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, implement the shelter-at-home measure that Gov. David Ige had been urged to imposed but had not.

Caldwell said Oahu needed to act quickly because, with the largest population among the counties, it has the most coronavirus cases -- 41 by the latest count.

Those exempted from the city order include first responders, health care workers and others deemed essential. (See below for the emergency order and a list of those carved out of the requirement to stay and work at home.)

The Honolulu mayor painted a dire picture of the future health of the community if extreme steps aren't taken. He said Hawaii could see as many as 40,000 to 45,000 COVID-19 cases by the end of April in a worst-case scenario, according to one projection. Numbers of that order could overwhelm the intensive-care unit capacity of hospitals in the state.

Caldwell said jurisdictions that failed to impose aggressive steps early are now among the worst off, as compared to countries like South Korea and Singapore where widespread testing and severe social distancing measures were implemented relatively quickly.

"So we're taking this action to buy time, to make sure that when you stay home and work at home, and quarantine for 14 days from somewhere else, whether you be visitors or residents, it'll make a tremendous difference," Caldwell said.

The state will still see a surge in coronavirus cases, he said, but if the spread can be slowed, it would allow hospitals to ramp up the number of ICU beds and shore up limited supplies of personal protective gear and equipment for health care professionals, including masks, gowns and ventilators.

Maui's mayor also announced yesterday that he is implementing a county stay-at-home order, taking effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday and like the Honolulu order running until April 30. 

“I am ordering all our residents to stay at home and our visitors to stay in their rooms as much as possible. Critical services and operations will continue, and everyone will still be able to get groceries and essential supplies," Victorino said in a news release.

The order applies to all except those engaged in essential activities, essential businesses and government operations. (See a press release below on the mayor's emergency rules and those in occupations and situations exempted from the order.) 

The governor issued a statement after Caldwell's afternoon press conference, saying he supports the actions of both the Honolulu and Maui mayors.

"We have been working together on this issue, and this morning we agreed that the mayors should develop their own plans to meet the unique needs of their counties. We also agreed that statewide action will be needed," he said in an issued statement.

"I have directed the Attorney General to review the orders other states have issued and prepare a statewide plan that will keep the people of Hawaii safe and healthy."

The stay-at-home orders follow the governor's emergency proclamation yesterday imposing a 14-day quarantine on visitors and returning residents beginning Thursday, all in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Ige had been earlier urged to impose the quarantine by legislative and county leaders, although he said he did not feel pressured to do so.

When asked yesterday why he was not also issuing a shelter-in-place order, Ige said that action is appropriate if the virus is widespread in the community. He said so far, all of the Hawaii cases are travel-related. Health officials later clarified that one case is still under investigation.

The two-week quarantine is expected to further drive down arrivals to the islands and send the economy into a tailspin, with the jobs of thousands of workers in jeopardy. Already, many hotel workers have lost employment and are in danger of losing their homes, said Eric Gill with UNITE HERE! Local 5, which represents the employees.

Caldwell also said the city will be following recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding homeless encampments.

The city had been enforcing laws such as prohibitions on the blocking of sidewalks. But the CDC guidelines state that unless individual units are available for the homeless, "do not clear encampments during community spread of COVID-19. "

The agency said doing so could disperse people through the community and sever ties with service providers, increasing the risk of infection. 

Editor's note: We’d like to hear how you’re coping with the latest developments in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus. You can call our talkback line at 808-792-8217. Or e-mail us at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.

City and County of Honolulu Emergency Order No 2020-02

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell Stay at Home Order Presentation

Maui Press Release_Stay at Home Amendment for Emergency Rules by hawaiipublicradio on Scribd

Latest numbers on the coronavirus

Hawaii now has 56 cases of COVID-19, an increase of 8 cases from yesterday and the addition of a second child, the state health department reported in its latest update.  Of the new cases, all Hawaii residents, three required hospitalization, two of whom remain hospitalized. The travel histories of the new cases are pending investigation. 

Oahu has the most cases to date with 41, followed by Maui with 9 and Kauai and the Big Island with 3 each. Out of the latest total, 48 cases are residents and 8 are non-residents. Fifty-four are adults and two are children.

As private labs in Hawaii have begun coronavirus testing, more cases have been detected.

The state says more than 2,700 tests have been conducted by private clinical labs. The state itself has tested 48 people suspected of having the virus and 263 specimens collected under its sentinel surveillance program that aims to detect the virus in the community. So far, all of the sentinel tests have turned up negative.

Demand for the tests remain high. According to media reports, the city's drive-through testing yeseterday at Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park drew over 2,000, more than organizers had projected. The screening had been limited to those who were showing symptoms and are in high-contact professions, including those in health care and the travel industry.

A list of testing sites has been posted by the Pacific Disaster Council on its Facebook page.

Kauai mayor says park rangers to make spot checks

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said today that park rangers will begin checking tomorrow on whether visitors are abiding by the requirement that they have permits to use county beach parks.

The county announced yesterday that all visitors must have a day-use permit to use the beach parks. The permits cost $50 per vehicle and $5 per person. State residents are exempt from the requirement, but must carry ID proving residency.

Permits will be limited to 100 islandwide. Visitors can obtain the permits on the Kauai County's Eventbrite webpage.

In his daily video update on the county's COVID-19 response, the mayor also said residents are heeding the 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew put into place Friday to enforce social distancing and conserve essential services.

Kauai bus service is shifting to a weekend schedule, the mayor said.

Kawakami said while he had hoped Gov. David Ige's 14-quarantine order for visitors and returning residents would take effect immediately rather than Thursday, he said he supports the move.

“This is not a fight against our visitors," he said but rather an effort to protect the community. He said those who are frustrated by the efforts, should direct their anger to him. "You see this skin? It's pretty thick."

Marines report their first virus case in Hawaii 

A Marine stationed at Camp Smith has tested positive for the coronavirus, the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific said in a news release today. It is the first case for the Marines in Hawaii.

The Marine traveled to the Mainland for training and leave and returned Friday. He visited Tripler Army Medical Center with symptoms and was treated and discharged. He is in quarantine in off-base quarters.

The Army reported last night that a second employee at Tripler had tested positive for the virus. Both the first case and latest case involved out-of-state travel. Authorities are tracing the workers movements to notify any close contacts made by the two employees.

Quarantine for visitors, returning residents start Thursday

Hawaii's major industry is bracing for what could be a virtual shutdown of tourism as Gov. David Ige's order for a 14-day quarantine covering all arrivals takes effect Thursday.

Under the emergency proclamation Ige announced yesterday, visitors and returning residents will be required to quarantine themselves in their hotel rooms or homes for two weeks when they arrive in the islands. 

The order won't be easily enforced, acknowledged Ken Hara, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency director. When tourists deplane, they will be handed a copy of the order and told they will need to confine themselves to their hotel rooms.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell expects once visitors hear about the quarantine, they will change their plans and stay away from the state. But he said if the city learns of anyone violating the order, police will take appropriate action. Failure to comply can bring a misdemeanor fine of up to $5,000 and a year in jail.

Even before the announcement, Hawaii arrivals had slowed significantly as worries of travel during the coronavirus pandemic spread. Data from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism show domestic passenger counts plummeting beginning around March 13.

Credit Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism

The governor's quarantine order comes two days after word that state Sen. Clarence Nishihara had tested positive for the coronavirus, the first legislator known to have contracted the illness.

House Speaker Scott Saiki then released a scathing critique of the state's response to the spreading pandemic, calling Ige's voluntary steps for dealing with the virus "utterly chaotic" and appealing to him for a 15-day shutdown of the islands.

His letter was followed by similar appeals from the state Senate committee on COVID-19, Honolulu City Council and others. 

See yesterday's updates: Governor orders quarantine for visitors, returning residens; Army has first service member case

Reports of local residents driving along Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki urging visitors to go home and tourists turned away from popular Two Step beach on the Big Island reflected growing frustration with the state's coronavirus response.

Ige said yesterday he did not feel pressured to order the quarantine, which he described as the first in the nation.

The order does not call for residents to shelter-in-place, a requirement that such states as California and New York have imposed. The governor said a stay-at-home mandate is appropriate where there is wide spread infection in the community.

So far, according to state health officials, there is no indication that COVID-19 has spread broadly in the community. Of the 48 cases of confirmed and presumed positive cases reported, all have been travel-related and one remains under investigation. About 260 randomly selected specimens submitted by health providers as part of a community sentinel program have turned up negative.

One concerning development among the military: the Marine Corps on Sunday reported its first coronavirus case in Hawaii. The Marine is stationed at Camp Smith. The Army reported yesterday its first service member has tested positive for the coronavirus and two Tripler Army Medical Center employees have come down with the illness. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.