Honolulu Hale, the headquarters for city government on Oahu, is closing almost entirely to the public through Sept. 6 after 11 employees there tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks.

More than 1,000 employees working in and around the building — including Mayor Kirk Caldwell — were slated to be tested for the virus Monday as city and health officials mobilized to contain the cluster of cases.

Meanwhile, a Honolulu City Council meeting that had been scheduled to take place there Wednesday has been postponed for at least a week, according to Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson.

Honolulu Hale bathed in sunrise light.
Honolulu Hale will almost entirely shut down to the public through Sept. 6. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Residents who need to make urgent payments to the city at Honolulu Hale can still do so, officials said. People can also drop off plans outside the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting, in the nearby Fasi Municipal Building, they added.

Caldwell announced the closure during a press conference outside the building Monday while en route to self-quarantine at home. One of the employees who tested positive worked in the mayor’s office on Honolulu Hale’s third floor, according to Caldwell spokesman Alexander Zannes.

However, city health officials determined Caldwell did not have “true exposure” to the employee and he opted to quarantine out of an abundance of caution, Zannes said Monday.

Caldwell’s test results were expected by the end of day Monday and he planned to end quarantine if the results were negative. Zannes said that the city’s infectious disease specialist, Dr. Jill Omori, informed them that Caldwell would only have to quarantine until a negative result was returned.

The 11 Honolulu Hale workers are among 48 city employees at multiple facilities and departments across Oahu who have tested positive for COVID-19. They include police and firefighters, emergency responders, Board of Water Supply employees and parks and recreation workers, among others.

The city is conducting its own contact tracing for those employees under a team led by Omori, Caldwell said.

Voter Service Center worker Brooke Webb disinfects the official ballot collection box outside Honolulu Hale. August 6, 2020
A worker disinfects a ballot collection box outside Honolulu Hale on Saturday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

At least nine of the Honolulu Hale employees worked in the city’s Budget and Fiscal Services department. None of those who tested positive worked on the building’s first floor, officials said. Thus, they deemed it safe to keep the building open for residents to drop off ballots in Saturday’s primary election.

Dr. Scott Miscovich, a private physician who’s led much of the testing effort on Oahu, said he agreed with the move and didn’t think it was necessary for anyone who dropped off ballots there to get tested.

A Miscovich-led medical team conducted the widespread testing at Honolulu Hale on Monday. That effort would continue, he said, until the building, plus the nearby Fasi and Mission Memorial buildings, are “disease free,” he said.

“We’re not stopping until we can give everyone that assurance,” Miscovich added.

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