HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state is taking small steps to reopen more areas of Hawaii’s economy, the governor said Wednesday, stressing that work will be “phased in" and perhaps slower than some would hope.
And tourism — the lifeblood of Hawaii’s economy — might be the toughest nut to crack.
“Together, with the county mayors, we are looking at ways to scale back mandates in a cautious, safe and coordinated manner,” he said.
“The curve has been flattened. But until there is a vaccine or a cure, we are not out of the woods.”
On Wednesday, a handful of Oahu businesses that have limited interactions with customers were given the governor’s approval to reopen Thursday. Those businesses include golf courses and automated car washes.
[READ MORE: For a full list of businesses now allowed to operate, click here.]
The state also previously allowed florists to resume deliveries starting Friday. And Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino announced that golf courses, and some beach and county parks would reopen Friday.
The discussions come as Hawaii continues to see a declining trend in new cases.
For 10 days, Hawaii has seen six or fewer new COVID-19 cases and Kauai hasn’t had a new case in more than two weeks — evidence that Hawaii’s strict emergency orders aimed at stopping the spread of the virus have worked.
On Wednesday, four new cases were reported, bringing the state’s total during the pandemic to 613.
But the governor cautioned against celebrating too soon.
He said there is concern about a second wave of infection — and warned some restrictions that are lifted might need to be reinstated if there’s a surge in cases. Until there’s a vaccine, Ige warned, this is the new normal.
“Life will not be back to what it was until there is a vaccine,” he said.
Perhaps the most difficult question for the state: How to restart tourism safely?
Lt. Gov. Josh Green said there are discussions underway about potentially testing visitors before they arrive or requiring documents certifying they’re not sick.
But those talks are very preliminary.
And at least through May 31, visitors will continue to be subject to a mandatory, 14-day quarantine. The governor said while several states have quarantines, Hawaii is the only state in the nation actually enforcing that order.
“We do believe that our quarantine system will be ready” if Hawaii sees an increase in visitors.
“Quarantine means that you stay in your room. You’re not allowed to leave the room," he continued. "When visitors understand what that is and that we’ll enforce it, we’re pretty confident that they’ll choose not to be here.”
This story will be updated.