For the next 15 days, Gov. David Ige says the state needs to take more aggressive action to halt the spread of coronavirus.
The governor directed the closure of bars and clubs but stopped short of issuing an executive order that would mandate closure as other states have done. He also asked restaurants to limit their service to takeout or drive-through.
He also asked that theaters, entertainment centers and visitor attractions close down. The governor also asked places of worship to suspend their services.
Grocers and pharmacies should remain open, Ige said.
The administration’s actions are aimed at limiting gatherings of 10 or more people.
It’s not clear what penalties businesses could face if they flout those closures.
The governor directed state departments to have non-essential workers work from home.
And he called on tourists headed for Hawaii to push off their travel plans for at least 30 days.
“We are asking for the community’s support,” Ige said. “Obviously if someone chooses to disobey the orders, we’ll deal with it appropriately.”
Hawaii would join at least 10 other states that have already called for these kinds of closures. The governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina all closed bars and restaurants through executive order.
The tourism industry is already expected to take a hit from COVID-19 with at least 6,000 layoffs in the coming months and millions of dollars in lost visitor revenue.
But Ige said the state should prioritize its residents over visitors.
“Our focus, at this point, is really the health of our community,” he said.
Ige also said that the state would institute a screening procedure that includes temperature checks for all cruise ships that must still disembark passengers in the state.
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency won’t ration certain products just yet, according to the agency’s director, Kenneth Hara. However, Hara said the agency is considering setting up temporary shops at various locations throughout the state where residents can restock items like hand sanitizers without fighting crowds at box stores.
Hara and Ige again called for residents to quit hoarding food and supplies.
“We encourage everybody to think of their neighbors when they go shopping,” Ige said.
It’s not yet clear how many of the more than 60,000 public employees could be affected by the new state guidelines to work from home.
Ige said the departments should identify their essential staff and require non-essential staff to work from home.
The Department of Education is excluded from that requirement as Ige says schools are still expected to reopen March 30.
In the meantime, Ige said schools should find ways to implement social distancing in their classrooms and schedules. For example, Ige said recess times could be staggered.
Meanwhile, the Honolulu City Council will meet as usual on Wednesday with a shortened agenda that focuses on essential items like the city budget and the continuity of government services, Chairman Ikaika Anderson said on Tuesday.
While public testimony will be allowed, a strict time limit will be enforced and citizens are strongly encouraged to tune in through Olelo online or on cable Channel 54. All regularly scheduled council committee meetings are postponed indefinitely.
“On behalf of the Honolulu City Council, I want to ensure the public that the people’s work will continue,” Anderson said in a statement. “But this is an unprecedented situation and public safety must be paramount. We need to practice social distancing for our safety and the safety of others.”
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell