HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Roughly two hours after Gov. David Ige announced his intention to lift restrictions on a number of Hawaii businesses this week, Mayor Kirk Caldwell stepped up to a podium of his own Tuesday afternoon to express his concerns with the plan.
He would have preferred businesses on Oahu be given more time to prepare, Caldwell said, aiming instead for an opening date of May 15.
And when asked if he was worried that people would rush out to go shopping and potentially ignore social distancing guidelines, Caldwell replied with a single word: “Yes.”
His concerns appear to have been acknowledged.
In a stunning reversal that was announced more than nine hours after the governor’s initial declaration, the state said it would not allow retailers and other businesses to reopen as stated on Thursday, opting instead to prevent shops on Oahu from opening until the May 15 ― Caldwell’s suggested date.
And businesses on Maui County that appeared to have been included in Ige’s initial plan will remain closed indefinitely, the updated emergency proclamation said.
Those businesses including shopping malls, retailers, nonprofits and astronomical observatories.
The late-night changes were especially surprising after Ige ― who repeatedly offered May 7 as the reopening date during his morning news conference ― said he had shared his plan with county mayors.
“We’ve been talking for more than two weeks now just about reopening activities here in the state,” Ige said. “They reviewed our suggested list of businesses and we do have consensus on moving forward at this point.”
Caldwell said, however, that the governor didn’t convey what day the order would take effect.
Also Tuesday, the mayor urged the state to do more to dial up COVID-19 testing and contact tracing — the work of figuring out all the close contacts of someone who has tested positive in order to limit the spread of the virus.
He said Oahu needs 300 contact tracers to be able to handle a surge of cases.
And he said testing needs to be readily available to close contacts of those who have been infected along with all health care workers, first responders and — when tourism opens up — those who come into contact with travelers.
“All of these things need to be in place as we open up,” he said.
This story will be updated.