Mayor pledges to ease restrictions on retailers, gatherings starting next week

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 10:19 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 15, 2020 at 10:23 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Facing criticism of his stay-at-home order as COVID-19 infections drop on Oahu, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Monday said he’s hoping to relax some rules next week.

He said the new order will allow gatherings of up to five people at beaches and parks.

And he said retailers would be among the first nonessential businesses given the green light to reopen.

Speaking at a news conference Monday, Caldwell said he recognizes the stay-at-home order — which continues through next Thursday — has taken another heavy toll on businesses and residents.

The city has said a shutdown was the only solution to address a surge in COVID-19 cases that wouldn’t abate despite bars being closed and gatherings being banned.

Caldwell has also said the state’s overwhelmed contact tracing program meant there was little data to pinpoint how people were getting sick, something that is vital to determine how to stem the spread.

He said greater testing and contact tracing will support a more “strategic” approach.

Some have called the stay-at-home order overly strict, saying its ban on anything but solo activities at beaches, parks and trails goes too far — and isn’t rooted in medical science.

Retailers have also questioned why they were targeted in the mandate. They noted that there is little evidence to suggest that retail business was a source of COVID-19 outbreaks.

The mayor acknowledged those frustrations and said he wished the mandates could be more equitable.

Under the stay-at-home order, nonessential businesses also include gyms, salons and car washes.

Economists have said Oahu’s businesses were struggling during the surge in COVID-19 infections but took another hit in the shutdown. In fact, the order is estimated to have wiped out about half the economic improvement the island made before the second surge in cases.

The mayor said he plans to lift the order “cautiously.”

“We’re not going to be rushing into a reopening like we did last time,” he said, adding that he never wants to institute another shutdown. “This is not a race to the finish line.”

This story will be updated.

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