Governor dismisses lockdown rumors, but counties warn more restrictions are on the way
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - While the governor made it clear Sunday that there are no current plans for a shutdown, some mayors and health officials said they are in favor of more restrictions.
Following “rumors circulating” about a statewide lockdown amid an ongoing surge in new COVID infections, Gov. David Ige took to social media to denounce these claims. “There are currently no plans to shut down,” he said. “All posts on social media and being distributed by other means are not true.”
But counties are working to implement more restrictions to curb the rapid spread of the virus, which has strained Hawaii’s health care network.
On Oahu, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi plans to roll out a “vaccine pass” program for restaurants, bars and gyms. The rules would apply to patrons and employees and include a testing option.
Blangiardi recognized the severity the COVID surge on Friday but said he’s not in favor of a lockdown. Instead, he said the city will continue to crack down on large gatherings and promote vaccinations.
Meanwhile, in announcing new restrictions on gatherings Friday, Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said Big Island hospitals have reached the tipping point. Among the new rules, gathering limits have been reduced to 10 people indoors and 10 outdoors. Tents and canopies on beaches and parks are also prohibited with all permits for larger gatherings cancelled.
Roth said hospitals are at capacity so they can’t respond quickly to non-COVID patients.
On Kauai, top health officials are calling for island-wide or statewide restrictions.
Dr. Janet Berreman, the Kauai district health officer, said it’s the only way to bring the surge of infections under control. Another Kauai county official also said that as of Saturday, the island has exceeded its capacity for contact tracing. Officials there are urging anyone who tests positive to isolate at home immediately and notify close contacts.
Finally, Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said he’s still working to finalize his county’s new restrictions with the governor. Victorino said he is asking residents and visitors to Maui County to voluntarily curb non-essential activities and gatherings for 21 days.
He is also asking employers to consider allowing employees to work from home.
With the Labor Day weekend coming up, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said it would be much safer to issue a stay-at-home order to prevent a surge in cases.
Green said that if hospitalizations rise above 500, leaders will have to issue strong policy changes, meaning that more restrictions are likely on the way.
Among residents, opinions on a statewide lockdown to bring cases under control vary.
“Because people have the option of getting vaccinated or don’t want to get vaccinated, they have the option of taking the risk,” said resident Kimon Nicolaides.
“The hospitals may be overloaded for a period of time, but you can’t just shut down their lives. It’s ridiculous, it’s absurd.”
But others say stronger actions are needed.
“At first I thought, ‘Oh rats,’ and then another part of me thought, ‘Oh maybe it’s good’...Perhaps over the Labor Day weekend, that would be a good thing” said Patti Shannon, a Hawaii resident.
“I’m torn, I really am. But if it’s gonna bring our scary numbers down then I’m all for it.”
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