Mayor Caldwell, city leaders echo calls for Ige to stop nonessential travel to Hawaii

Mayor Caldwell, city leaders echo calls for Ige to stop nonessential travel to Hawaii
Drive-thru testing centers are now scattered around the islands as the number of coronavirus patients grows. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Honolulu City Council sent a letter to Gov. Ige on Friday, urging him to ‘immediately implement’ emergency measures to prevent visitors from traveling to Hawaii and continuing to spread the coronavirus.

The letter, which was signed by all nine current members of the council, calls on Gov. Ige to institute a mandatory 14-day quarantine for any future visitors and immediately halt any state-funded advertising campaign through the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

"It is our belief, with prudent and swift action, our isolation can be our asset in our efforts to protect the public health, safety and welfare of our residents,” said Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson. “We recognize these actions will have immediate and significant economic impacts, but we have grave concerns that a prolonged and widespread outbreak in our State will hurt our city for years.”

During a press conference on Friday afternoon to discuss coronavirus testing, Mayor Kirk Caldwell was informed of the council’s stance.

“I support the Honolulu City Council’s recommendation,” Mayor Caldwell said.

The calls from city leaders on Oahu are just the latest in a string of similar requests from leaders at every level of local government.

On Thursday, House Speaker Scott Saiki called on the governor to institute an immediate statewide shutdown for 15 days, requiring people to shelter in their homes or hotel rooms to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus in the islands.

Saiki outlined his recommendations in a letter to the governor Thursday afternoon, and said the state should also quarantine all travelers from outside Hawaii for 15 days, prohibit all non-essential inter-island and out-of-state travel, and close all public and private schools and daycare centers.

“As governor, you are the only person in the state who has the direct authority to institute these actions,” Saiki wrote in the letter. “I implore you to take immediate action for the health, safety and welfare of the people of Hawaii.”

On Thursday evening, the Governor’s Office responded to Saiki with this statement:

“Gov. Ige continues to work through all the options, including their potential benefits and consequences, to secure our islands and do what’s best for our communities.”

Call for greater action

The widening spread of the virus has alarmed public health officials, including Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

He said, “We could protect ourselves unlike most places and have a very minimal impact in our intensive care units if we’re very stern now.”

On Thursday, Green announced a proposal calling on the state suspend all non-essential travel to Hawaii until April 30, require anyone who comes to Hawaii to go through a two-week quarantine and bolster hospital capacity and isolate “completely” everyone who tests positive for the virus.

A day earlier, 100 doctors and health professionals signed a petition calling for much the same things.

"Tighten your borders, then you can get ahead of this," Green said, "We don't want to look like New York. We don't want to look like Italy. We don't have the capacity yet."

State scrambles to prepare hospitals

Statewide, there are currently 3069 licensed beds, 340 intensive care beds and 583 ventilators.

The vast majority of those resources are on Oahu. Here’s a look at the breakdown on the Neighbor Islands:

  • Big Island: 295 licensed beds, 24 ICU beds and 39 ventilators
  • Maui: 242 licensed beds, 29 intensive care beds and 27 ventilators
  • Kauai: 111 licensed beds, 9 ICU beds and 18 ventilators

Green said he’s working with local doctors and hospitals to increase those numbers. One idea is to re-purpose rooms currently used for surgery.

He estimates that can increase capacity by up to 20%.

“But there’s only so much you can do," Green said. "You can’t just expect the cavalry to come in with a bunch of ventilators everyone needs them.”

FULL COVERAGE: Coronavirus Pandemic

The growing calls for a shutdown in Hawaii come as other cities and even the state of California have issued have shelter-in-place orders.

So far, though, the governor has resisted a sweeping statewide directive.

Instead, he’s asked visitors to stay away for 30 days ― a request that appears to have had limited effect ― and called on restaurants and bars to close dine-in services.

My medical recommendations on how we address the spread of the virus now. I don’t want to be alarmist, but our entire...

Posted by Lieutenant Governor Josh Green on Thursday, March 19, 2020

Most non-essential state employees are also working from home, state venues and parks are closed, and passengers on board two cruise ships that docked in Hawaii were told they couldn’t disembark.

The counties have also taken their own steps to contain the virus.

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Kauai has instituted a nighttime curfew. On Oahu and Maui, restaurants and bars have been ordered to shutter dine-in options, and all parks and other public gathering places are closed.

Hawaii public schools, meanwhile, are closed through at least April 6, and universities and private schools are on break or having students work remotely.

This story will be updated.

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