HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Citing concerns about a second wave of illness, the governor has extended the statewide stay-at-home order along with the mandatory quarantine for travelers through May 31.
The decision, while largely expected, is nonetheless a major blow to thousands of shuttered Hawaii businesses struggling to stay afloat.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Gov. David Ige, in a news conference Saturday, pointing to alarming COVID-19 clusters on the Big Island and Maui. “We still need to remain vigilant.”
He added that Hawaii — which has one of the nation’s lowest infection rates — has made significant progress in stopping the spread of coronavirus. But he said lifting restrictions too early could drive up cases quickly.
A handful of other states have already taken steps to reopen their economies, but those decisions have proven controversial and public health officials say lifting shutdowns too quickly could trigger a second wave of illness.
The governor first issued his stay-at-home order March 25, in a move that brought tourism to a standstill, triggered non-essential businesses to close, and led to unprecedented layoffs.
In an apparent move to ensure counties follow the state’s lead, the supplementary proclamation announced Saturday also includes a “statewide coordination” provision that requires counties to get approval from the governor or Hawaii Emergency Management officials before issuing “any emergency order, rule or proclamation.”
Last week, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell extended the city’s stay-at-home order through May 31, but reopened city parks for exercise and said that he also hoped to reopen golf courses and car dealerships soon.
Also Saturday, the governor announced that:
- He would reopen state beaches for exercise, a change that several mayors had requested.
- Elective medical procedures will now be allowed given that hospitals are not overwhelmed.
- The state Transportation Department would further dial up efforts to screen incoming travelers and ensure they’re following a mandatory, 14-day quarantine.
- He was extending a moratorium on evictions, including for non-payment of rent, through May 31.
The extension of the stay-at-home order comes as Hawaii continues to see its daily tally of new coronavirus cases follow a downward trend. Over the weekend, Hawaii saw just five new cases, bringing the state’s total to 606.
No new fatalities were reported Saturday. The death toll from the virus stands at 14.
Ige said no other state has been able to stop the spread of coronavirus so effectively.
But, he said, “my greatest fear is if we move too quickly to reopen we will see sudden surge in new cases that would result in overwhelming the health care system.”
He added Hawaii will instead phase-in a reopening of the state’s economy, relaxing measures as it’s safe to do so.
In addition to the stay-at-home order, the governor has previously issued emergency measures requiring residents to wear cloth face masks in public and directing essential businesses open to customers to practice social distancing measures. He said those mandates are more important than ever.
This story will be updated.