In HNN town hall, Hawaii’s mayors discuss COVID restrictions and what’s next

In the second of our series of town hall conversations marking the anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawaii News Now speaks to the state's four mayors.
Updated: Mar. 23, 2021 at 10:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s mayors have taken a key role in the COVID pandemic, putting in place restrictions or lifting them as they sought to balance public health with the economy.

As part of its ongoing series, “The Pandemic: A Year with Coronavirus,” Hawaii News Now aired a town hall Tuesday night featuring Hawaii’s four mayors.

They discussed current restrictions in place and their plans moving forward to ensure the safety of their islands.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Hawaii County Mitch Roth approached the discussion as relative newcomers. Both took their positions in January and are working to determine whether to stay the course set by their predecessors or choose a different direction.

Maui Mayor Mike Victorino and Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami, meanwhile, have both grappled with COVID from the beginning of the pandemic. They’ve faced heat and praise alike for their handling of the virus.

In regards to Oahu’s tier system, Blangiardi said he is working to change certain requirements to move into different tiers. As of Monday, Blangiardi said that a proposal has been submitted to change Tier 3 to include 50 to 100 COVID cases on Oahu.

He said the original tier system must be restructured because it was created during a time when vaccines were not an option.

Blangiardi said his goal for Oahu is to administer 1.5 million vaccines in order to protect 900,000 residents.

“Now with the advent of AstraZeneca, that can add to the possible vaccine material we can get, along with the Johnson & Johnson and our capability of distributing a minimum of 100,000 plus vaccines a week, I think we can get there,” Blangiardi said.

On Maui, Victorino said he has implemented capacity restrictions in restaurants and has reduced hours of operations in restaurants as the island sees an uptick of case counts. The rise in case counts are especially concerning as most of the reported infections stem from the California variant.

“Our big outbreaks have been in MCCC and in cleaning businesses and nightclubs and bars,” Victorino said. “We’ve taken some action, but they have really stepped up to do more cleaning and disinfecting. I think we are getting to the point right now where these clusters will be continuously managed.”

“I know its been frustrating lately because of the numbers coming out. But really we are not taxing our hospitals, we are not taxing out medical facilities and the robust testing has brought these cases up so we can treat them early and not let them get ahead,” Victorino continued.

Compared to other islands, Kauai has been able to limit the spread of COVID-19 on the island. Currently, the island reported an average case count of 0.1 cases.

Although case counts are low, the island will be rejoining the state’s Safe Travels program.

Kawakami said although Kauai has been in Tier 4 for a number of months, he is prioritizing the health and safety of residents.

In Hawaii county, Roth said his main goal is to get people back to work as safe and as soon as possible.

Each mayor continued to advise the public to avoid gathering in large crowds, practice social distancing and to wear masks.

The rest of the townhall discussed the mayors’ plans for organized sports, weddings and tax relief for businesses and landowners.

For extended coverage in this series, click here.

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