HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell spoke with Hawaii News Now Tuesday evening to address confusion and concerns surrounding the latest stay-at-home order he announced earlier in the day.
As of 5:30 p.m. when he sat down for the live interview, he said Gov. Ige hadn’t yet officially signed off on his order, but verbal approval was previously given after last-minute amendments were made Tuesday morning.
Businesses have already expressed their fears over a shutdown that would further cripple the local economy. Caldwell said he acknowledged the struggle of local businesses, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the health of the people.
“Where there’s a sick community, a not healthy population, the economy cannot be healthy,” he said.
He said so far, the city has given out $50 million in grants to small business, and they’re looking to give out an additional $25 million to help relieve the financial strain.
Another concern raised by the public was the definition of an “essential” business.
Retail shops and gyms have since been deemed non-essential under this latest order. But one aspect that many people seem to not agree with is the deeming of churches and other religious spaces of worship as “essential.”
Clusters in the past have been linked to church services and other religious ceremonies. The first stay-at-home order did not provide an exemption for churches, but this time around, Mayor Caldwell decided to keep them open.
When asked why, he said, “We also heard from religious organizations. We saw lawsuits that were filed in other states, sometimes successful, sometimes not successful.”
He said during his meetings with religious leaders, he personally asked them to hold off on holding services for the next two weeks.
“Legally, they’re allowed to. They’ve become an essential business. But I’ve asked them personally, me to them, saying, ‘Please, please, can two weeks go by before you ask people to gather in your sanctuaries. Some have said yes, some have said no.”
He added, “I’m hoping that we’ll get greater compliance in terms of not spreading the virus in our churches.”
Other topics he touched on included the criticism of the state’s contact tracing system; complaints from the firefighters union over policies; and potential cuts looming for critical city operations like EMS.
“Obviously, we cannot cut our ambulance service. We cannot cut our EMS folks. They’re on the front line and in this pandemic, they’re doing more than ever,” Caldwell said.
“We’re going to have to find the money, we will find the money because this is the job of the city to provide these kinds of services. And if we don’t, people are going to die. That’s not acceptable,” he added.
Caldwell continued on to address the issue of educational services and restrictions they’re facing.
When asked what the difference was from the first stay-at-home order back in March, he said there are a lot of similarities. The only big difference is that places of worship, regardless of religion, are now essential.
He hopes the order won’t need to be extended beyond its 2-week period, but also is relying on the people of Oahu to do their part to help bring down the amount of new cases.
Once the full order is signed by the governor and made available, it will be posted on our website.