Malls, hotels and other businesses close as city’s stay-at-home order takes effect

Published: Mar. 23, 2020 at 5:53 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Responding to a flurry of questions about what constitutes an “essential” activity, the mayor on Monday acknowledged that his “stay-at-home” order was broadly worded to allow daily activities to continue while also working to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“We’re really asking people to be careful ... so we don’t have to take stronger action,” Caldwell said.

The order went into effect at 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Meanwhile, the governor issued his own stay-at-home order for the state. It will go into effect Wednesday at 12:01 a.m.

Ahead of the city’s order going into effect, several malls ― including Ala Moana Center ― closed their doors and a number of hotels said they planned to do the same.

[Read more: State reports 21 new COVID-19 cases in highest one-day total since pandemic began]

At the same time, there’s been considerable confusion about what type of activities are still allowed under Honolulu’s mandate ― and which workers are still allowed to report to the office.

Caldwell, who announced the order Sunday, said the emergency mandate extends through April 30.

See what’s defined as essential:

LIST: Essential services, workers and activities under city’s stay-at-home order

Later Sunday, Maui Mayor Mike Victorino issued a similar order. Maui’s order starts Wednesday and also extends through April 30. (Read more about the order here.)

“We want to see folks staying at home, only doing the things are essential,” Caldwell said.

Under the order, essential activities are broadly defined to include:

  • Those required for health and safety;
  • Those needed to get necessary services and supplies, including groceries;
  • Outdoor activities “as permitted by law”;
  • Work performed to provide essential products and services;
  • and caring for a family member or pet.

Businesses considered essential, meanwhile, include those that deliver health care, food, services for the homeless, gas stations, banks, hardware stores, maintenance workers, delivery services and more.

Caldwell said that the number of businesses considered essential could be amended in the future. He added that the order is based on those issued in other cities and states on the mainland.

The mayor stressed that residents can continue to shop for groceries and city buses will still run.

Places of worship are not exempt from the order, but hotel workers are considered essential. Work on construction projects, including rail, can continue.

And while you won’t be able to run in a city park, you can do so on a sidewalk.

In other words, he said, the order isn’t meant to “shut down everything.”

“We’re just looking for people to stay at home if it’s not necessary for them to travel about," Caldwell said.

At the news conference Sunday, he called the order a “hammer action” — a strong push to bring down the number of people potentially exposed to the coronavirus.

Read the full proclamation below:


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He noted that Oahu has seen the highest number of coronavirus cases — 53 of the 77 so far statewide.

“A week ago, we had three. We now have many, many more cases,” he said. “We’re taking this action to buy time. It will make a tremendous difference.”

He warned that a lack of action could lead to a dire future in which Oahu’s hospitals — with limited resources — were scrambling to help thousands of sick patients.

A group of Hawaii medical professionals made the same argument over the weekend as they called on government to take aggressive action to prevent widespread transmission of the virus.

In an open letter to the community, the group said without any intervention, Hawaii could see more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus by the end of the month. They also said hospitals are already feeling the strain of the pandemic and are short of necessary supplies, including personal protective gear.

New memo from healthcare providers in Maui/Oahu saying they’re already seeing a shortage of medical supplies. Calling on...

Posted by Allyson Blair on Sunday, March 22, 2020

Caldwell’s stay-at-home order is in addition to other mandates the city has already issued, including the shuttering of dine-in options at Oahu eateries and the closure of city parks and large venues.

Other counties have also taken similar measures.

The announcement also comes a day after the governor instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors and returning residents — an order that goes into effect Thursday.

Together, the mandates are aimed at bringing tourism — the state’s no. 1 economic driver — to a standstill and keeping the vast majority of the population at home until the risk of an exponential rise in cases subsides.

Caldwell noted that if public schools resume as scheduled on April, the order would not apply to students.

Violators of the stay-at-home order, meanwhile, will largely face warnings. But “flagrant” violators could face citations, he said.

“We moved beyond the mitigation level today to the fighting level,” he said.

“I want to ask everyone in the City and County of Honolulu — almost a million strong — to work together and to care for each other and appeal to the very best angels we have in our heart as we go forward."

This story will be updated.

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