Mayor threatens to close bars again amid COVID-19 surge

Amid COVID-19 surge, Mayor Caldwell considers rolling back bar reopenings

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu’s mayor is threatening to shut down bars on Oahu again after a cluster of new cases linked to two Honolulu establishments.

Caldwell said on Monday that in his next emergency order, he plans to call for the closure of all bars on Oahu. He called the new mandate a tough but necessary step to keep people safe.

“We gotta be ready for this coming wave and try to get ahead of it,” Caldwell said.

“So we are going to take some steps backwards, but we are trying to do it in a way where we don’t wipe out a whole swath like all of the restaurant industry or all of the fitness center industry.”

He noted that most establishments have been following the new rules, but added that the few not complying ruin it for everyone else.

“We need to take action unfortunately some bad actors have probably jeopardized an entire industry,” said Caldwell.

The reopening reversal would require approval from the governor.

Earlier Monday, the state asked anyone who had recently patronized two Honolulu bars linked to clusters of COVID-19 to contact their physicians.

The state is also investigating a cluster of at least 36 cases associated with recent funerals.

The health alert comes amid growing concern from public health officials and others about a surge in new COVID-19 infection in the islands, just as Hawaii prepares to reopen public school campuses.

So far in July, Hawaii has reported more than 800 new coronavirus cases ― the vast majority of which are on Oahu. That compares to 276 cases in all of June.

On Monday, 28 new COVID-19 cases were reported, all on Oahu.

That’s a dramatic drop from recent days, something the state Health Department attributed to an anticipated decrease in testing at private labs due to Hurricane Douglas.

Meanwhile, the state identified the two bars associated with COVID-19 clusters: Brix and Bones on Hopaka Street and Arena 808 on Keeaumoku Street.

At least 12 cases are linked to these bars and associated clusters.

State health officials are asking anyone who went to these bars between July 16 through 26 to contact their physicians to determine whether they should be tested or go into quarantine.

“That was the period of time when we knew people were there who were actively infected with symptoms potentially infecting others,” said Bruce Anderson, director of Hawaii State Dept. of Health.

This is one of the first times the Department of Health has publicly identified businesses tied to clusters as they are having a hard time finding all the people who were there. Caldwell said he’s been pushing them to release more information to the public about cases and clusters in the interest of public health and safety.

“It helps people protect themselves and act accordingly, including getting more people to wear face coverings and of course, it helps me as mayor to know where they are and to take action,” Caldwell added.

City leaders continue to urge people to avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing and wear masks.

Since the pandemic began, Hawaii has reported 1,711 coronavirus infections.

Of those, 165 people have required hospitalization and 1,191 have been released from isolation. The death toll from the virus in the islands stands at 26.

Amid the significant increase in new COVID-19 infections, some have called on the state to delay the planned reopening of public school campuses on Aug. 4 and even roll back the state’s reopening.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green called the surge “an incredible concern” and said he would support the governor taking a “step back” from the state’s reopening and “limit interactions between people.”

“I think it would be very prudent of us to go back to a position pretty soon where people are just doing take-out from restaurants for a short while, socially distancing from any large groups, and so on,” he said. “We’ve had 800 cases in the last 30 days. We had 800 cases in the first five months.”

He added: “So you can see that means it’s gone up pretty fast, and if we want to get control of this, we’re going to have to really put the brakes on. I think we’re going to have to look very seriously at shutting some significant operations down again for a time.”

Here’s the latest county-by-county breakdown of confirmed positives:

OAHU

  • Total cases: 1,373
  • Released from isolation: 912
  • Required hospitalization: 132
  • Deaths: 19

MAUI COUNTY

  • Total cases: 153 (includes 2 on Molokai)
  • Released from isolation: 124
  • Required hospitalization: 26
  • Deaths: 6

KAUAI

  • Total cases: 45
  • Released from isolation: 42
  • Required hospitalization: 1
  • Deaths: 0

BIG ISLAND

  • Total cases: 117
  • Released from isolation: 113
  • Required hospitalization: 4
  • Deaths: 0

UNASSIGNED

  • Hawaii residents diagnosed out-of-state: 23
  • Hawaii residents who have died out-of-state: 1
  • Pending assignment to county: 0

This story will be updated.

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