Voters were welcomed to Honolulu Hale, despite COVID-19 cases among city employees

Voters were welcomed to Honolulu Hale, despite COVID-19 cases among city employees

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mayor Kirk Caldwell defended his decision Saturday to keep Honolulu Hale open for primary election voters, despite an outbreak of COVID-19 among employees.

At least 10 employees at city hall have tested positive for the virus, the city announced Friday.

Caldwell said the city is addressing the cases, scheduling testing for employees. The offices will also be disinfected and most employees are now working remotely.

He also noted that those handling voting operations at city hall were following safety protocols by wearing masks and keeping a distance.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of testing on Monday and make it available to everyone on this campus who wants to be tested,” he said.

“And we’re going to become much more aggressive in what we need to do going forward.”

But the new cases at city hall drew concern from some employees and elections volunteers.

Kristen Perreira, a temporary elections worker, said keeping Honolulu Hale open on Saturday simply wasn’t safe. She decided not to go in because she didn’t feel the city was taking the right precautions.

“This is not safe. I don’t feel like they value us as people,” she said.

City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi, who is honorary chair of former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa’s mayoral campaign, also opted to stay home Saturday rather than campaign for Hanabusa.

“I’m not going anywhere because I don’t know if I’ve exposed,” said Kobayashi, who said the mayor should have been more upfront about the cases.

“We kept hearing bits and pieces, someone in Budget and Finance, then all of a sudden ten people ... The mayor would have told us all of these cases are happening. We could have started taking precautions.”

The spike in coronavirus cases at Honolulu Hale didn’t seem to deter the hundreds of last-minute voters who flocked to city hall Saturday.

“I believe that so many things are going the wrong way so if you want to change things you need to have your say,” said Cora, a voter from Kapolei.

When asked why it was important to vote, Makiki resident Jenna Owczarek added: “So that the future generations have a voice, and can move forward,” she said.

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