Hawaii Updates: More Retailers, Malls Can Open Thursday; Visitor Count Jumps; Cases Up 4

May 5, 2020

Updated: 5/5/20, 12:12 p.m.

Retailers including shopping malls that can maintain social distancing for employees and customers can reopen beginning after midnight on Thursday, Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced today. The governor said, however, that officials expect cases of the coronavirus  will increase as more people leave their homes to visit the newly opened businesses.

Ige is calling this new phase of the state's reopening "safer at home" following on his "stay-at-home" order. While the state is encouraging people to patronize the business that are reopening, the governor said they should then return home. Shoppers can only visit stores by themselves or in family groups, and they should wear cloth masks, he said.

Shopping malls must enforce social distancing requirements and can turn to law enforcement if they need help. Ige said the state is prepared to close the malls if they pose a health risk.

Ige said apparel stores, electronic stores, landscaping, car washes, pet groomers, nonprofits, observatories, warehouses and wholesale operations are among the new businesses and activities that can reopen.

Details on the requirements for restarting businesses will be in his next supplemental order once it is signed today.

The new businesses will join florists, golf courses, mobile businesses and others that were allowed to reopen last week under social distancing and sanitation requirements.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has already said he may allow retailers to reopen later this month with some changes to their operations.

Retail Merchants of Hawaii President Tina Yamaki told a House committee yesterday that the group plans to finish drafting guidelines for its members this week. She said the rules won't be one-size-fits-all.

Yesterday's Hawaii Updates: UH resuming in-person classes. Cases up 1. Oahu stores could reopen in mid-May.

"What may work in a grocery stores may not work at a kiosk or in a department store," she said. "As you guys all know, in apparel stores they don’t necessarily have aisles to go through. They have round clothing racks – so that’s something that we’re also trying to address."

Yamaki said each island is unique, but it’s best to still have a uniform standard. "We’re looking at putting out statewide guidelines of operation that will accomplish three objectives – to protect our communities, allow for safe reopening of retail, and establish clear expectations for not only employees, but the customers as well."

Yamaki said the guidelines are based on those from the National Retail Federation that were developed with direction from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

--HPR's Casey Harlow and Sandee Oshiro

More visitor arrivals, 2 unauthorized tourists arrive on Kauai in small plane

Sunday saw another jump in visitor arrivals with over 200 tourists coming to the islands despite a mandatory 14-day quarantine. The numbers have been increasing in recent days, with regular reports of visitors violating quarantine.

Two visitors were dropped off from a small plane that landed Sunday at Port Allen airfield on Kauai, Mayor Derek Kawakami said yesterday.

"They had arrived without authorization and without having filled out any required documentation," the mayor said. Kauai police and the Hawaii National Guard intercepted the visitors and an investigation is underway.

"This is another indication that the threat is still with us, and we need to be cautious. Our goal at this time is to strictly limit and monitor incoming visitors, so that we can allow our residents to live more freely, and open up our local economy first," Kawakami said.

Lawmakers have questioned the state's ability to track the tens of thousands of visitors who will return to the islands daily once the Hawaii fully reopens.

On Sunday, 759 people arrived in the state, 228 of them visitors and 268 returning residents, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Other arrivals included 147 crew members, 60 intended residents and 56 transiting travelers. 

UH prepares to open in-person classes, residence halls under COVID-19 restrictions

The University of Hawaii is opening its 10 campuses to in-person classes in the fall.

Starting August 24th, students can expect to attend classes with social distancing measures in place and, in some cases, hybrid classes that combine in-person and online instruction.

UH President David Lassner says quarantines or other public health requirements for international and Mainland students will be followed. Plans also call for the dorms on the Manoa and Hilo campuses to reopen but with precautions.

“We just have many students who have no safe place to go, other than to stay with us -- could be a challenging home situation, could be an international student who has no place else to go. Or if they leave, they may be going back to a less safe place or not be able to come back," Lassner said. "So, I think...managing those risks and really coming to that decision that we want to be there for our students was probably the toughest thing we've had to face.”

Lassner also said the university can’t announce yet if athletic games will resume. That decision will be made collaboratively with the conferences that UH teams play in, including Mountain West and Big West, he said.

--HPR's Sandee Oshiro

Hawaii-based fishing boats caught in economic meltdown

About 145 commercial longline fishing boats are based in Honolulu and the group that represents them say they are facing a financial disaster.

Each year, Hawaii’s fishing industry brings in about a $100 million worth of fish on a wholesale basis. That’s according to Eric Kingma, executive director of the Hawaii Longline Association.

He says that in the last eight weeks as demand from restaurants has plunged, revenue losses for longline fishing have run about 60 percent over that time period.

And Kingma says this is not just a short-term issue.

“Food security in Hawaii is critical. And ... our fishing industry is the largest producer of protein product in the state. The outlook for our industry is not a good one," he said. "We need to be able to sustain it, continue the operations so that we can continue to provide healthy, safe high-quality fish products to Hawaii consumers.”

According to the Hawaii Longline Association, about 80 percent of the fish taken by its members is sold locally.

--HPR's Noe Tanigawa

Where Hawaii stands

Hawaii has four additional coronavirus case for a total of 625, the state health department reported today. The death toll stands at 17. 

Hawaii has seen single-digit increases in daily cases for over the past two weeks, continuing a "flattening of the curve" that is spurring the reopening of the state. 

Oahu's case count is now at 404, Maui County at 116, Hawaii County at 74, and Kauai at 21. Ten were diagnosed out of state.

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

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