Under governor’s plan, much of the ‘kamaaina economy’ will be reopened by early June

Published: May. 19, 2020 at 10:32 AM HST|Updated: May. 19, 2020 at 10:35 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor unveiled a four-phase plan for reopening Hawaii’s economy at a news conference Monday, announcing that “medium-risk" businesses and activities — from salons to theaters to restaurants — would be allowed to operate by the beginning of June with social distancing measures in place.

Gov. David Ige said the plan was aimed at providing a road map for Hawaii to “live with COVID-19.”

“We have to work together and empower ourselves by acting with care and taking personal responsibility for Hawaii’s safe reopening,” he said.

Under the plan:

  • Hawaii is currently in phase 1, with retailers and shopping malls recently allowed to reopen. The next phase slated for early June will include a much broader reopening of the economy that caters to Hawaii residents.
  • During phase 2 of the state’s reopening plans, “medium-risk” businesses — including salons and barbers, restaurants and gyms — will be allowed to once again operate. Also considered medium-risk: Movie theaters, houses of worship and museums. These venues will all have to maintain social distancing guidelines.
  • But “high-risk” businesses, like bars and clubs, will remain closed until phase 3.
  • Meanwhile, gatherings of 10 people or more are still not allowed in phase 2 and high-risk populations along with kupuna are advised to continue to stay home.
  • In a supplemental proclamation issued Monday, the governor also extended the mandatory quarantine for travelers (including inter-island) through June along with a moratorium on residential evictions.

The months-long shutdown of much of Hawaii’s economy has triggered more than 200,000 layoffs, made miles-long lines for food distribution a common sight, and left many businesses facing tough decisions about the future.

The governor said his plan will mean tens of thousands of people will be able to get back to work.

But he also acknowledged that the number of coronavirus cases will increase as the economy further reopens — and he said some restrictions could return if there are concerns about infection rates.

“In this phase, we will start to reconnect Hawaii’s local activities by gradually reopening medium-risk businesses and activities followed by high-risk businesses and activities," Ige said.

“We still need to limit gatherings. However, we anticipate a phasing-in of larger gatherings as we progress the impact level from 10 to 50 to 100 people or more.”

Officials said a 14-day observation period between reopenings will give the state time to assess the situation before moving to the next phase. Decisions on how to move forward will be made by the governor and mayors.

Retailers and shopping malls have already reopened statewide, and a number of other businesses are now able to operate. Counties have also reopened beaches, and many parks are open for limited activities.

The state has waited longer to reopen “medium-risk” businesses — like salons — because they require close contact of 30 minutes or more between employees and customers.

But with the number of new COVID-19 cases remaining low statewide, and none reported Monday, public health officials have said medium-risk businesses can safely reopen with mitigation measures like mask-wearing in place.

Waikiki retailers find that reopening is only step 1. Staying open could be the bigger challenge.

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Restaurants, meanwhile, will be required to limit the number of diners they allow in and stop the use of shared condiment bottles. Employees will also have to wear masks.

The state envisions those measures will eventually go away, but there’s no timeline for that.

On Oahu, the mayor has already set a date for reopening restaurants: June 5.

This story will be updated.

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