With few new COVID-19 cases on Oahu, Caldwell says it’s time to reopen some businesses

With few new COVID-19 cases, Caldwell eyes plans to reopen some low-risk businesses

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is hoping to reopen some “low-risk” businesses on Oahu as early as Friday, but first must get approval from the governor to do so.

At a news conference Tuesday, Caldwell said he hoped to get approval to reopen:

  • Automated car washes and similar services
  • Mobile service providers (such as mobile dog groomers)
  • Appointment-only open houses
  • One-on-one educational services, like tutoring or music lessons
  • Public and private golf courses

“If I had the authority, I would probably like to see this happen by May 1,” said Caldwell, adding he hasn’t yet discussed the plans with the governor. Under an order Gov. David Ige signed over the weekend, mayors must get his approval before making any changes to stay-at-home or other emergency orders.

When asked why he was discussing the proposal before getting the OK, Caldwell said, “I think this is where we get there, both by the governor and the public. This is about transparency and openness.”

The governor and mayor have both extended their stay-at-home orders through the end of next month.

But they’ve pledged to begin lifting some restrictions. The governor has already reopened state beaches for walking and jogging, while the mayor reopened city parks for some exercise activities.

In a statement Tuesday, the governor’s press secretary said Ige "has been in discussions with county mayors about next steps in reopening businesses in Hawaii. Florists are cleared to open May 1. No other decisions have been made on what businesses will be allowed to open next.”

The push to reopen some limited sectors of Hawaii’s economy comes as the number of COVID-19 continues a downward trend in Hawaii. On Tuesday, Hawaii reported just two new cases, both on Maui.

Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino also announced plans for gradual reopening. On Wednesday morning, he told Hawaii News Now he hopes to reopen parks for exercise on Saturday and some businesses either this weekend or Monday. Both are pending approval from Gov. Ige.

With its strict emergency orders, including a mandatory quarantine for travelers, Hawaii has fared far better than other states amid the pandemic. But the shutdown has taken an unprecedented toll on the economy.

Colin Moore, HNN political analyst, said reopening the state and addressing the economic struggles Hawaii families are grappling with could prove far tougher and more contentious problems to tackle in the months ahead.

“This is an incredibly tough situation. This is when the politics are really going to come into play. It’ll be unlike any challenge any political leader has had to face,” Moore said, adding that Ige has struggled to communicate his message throughout the crisis and that could be a growing issue as he seeks to lift his emergency orders.

This story will be updated.

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