UPDATE: County Managing Director Sandy Baz announced in the afternoon Wednesday, 5/6, that retail in shopping malls would be allowed to open on May 11. Further rules and guidance will be released soon.
Governor David Ige announced Tuesday that the state would begin “Phase 1” of plans to reopen businesses and activities that have been closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The changes to the stay-at-home order rules will go into effect Thursday, May 7. Some restrictions that have been lifted in the rest of the state will remain in effect on Maui.
“Today was another victory in the battle with COVID-19,” said Ige. “Only four positive cases were reported. This makes more than two weeks of single-digit daily new cases. We have some of the lowest numbers of cases in the country and we have flattened the curve. Now we can continue our phased approach to reopening our local economy.”
The governor added that he referred to several metrics before deciding to proceed with reopening the state, such as a declining trend in positive COVID cases, the capacity of the health system to handle any potential outbreaks, and robust testing and contact tracing.
“We have achieved all of these metrics,” Ige announced.
Phase 1 of the reopening plan is titled “Stabilization,” and allows businesses and activities categorized as low risk to begin opening, as long as they can maintain social distancing, sanitation, and workplace and customer safety requirements.
In addition to what is already deemed essential under current rules, the following businesses and activities will be allowed to open under the new state rules: non-food agriculture, including landscape, floral and ornamental; astronomical observatories and support facilities; car washes; pet grooming services; healthcare and social assistance, including elective surgery and non-emergent services; nonprofit organizations; retail businesses and services, including apparel, electronics and florists; shopping malls (except retail and shopping malls on Maui); and, wholesale and warehousing operations.
The Governor advised residents to check with their county to confirm restrictions. As of press time, the Mayor’s Office did not respond to a request to clarify any discrepancies between the state and county rules. The latest county guidelines are at Mauicounty.gov.
“To reflect this new approach to our COVID-19 response, the stay-at-home order is now referred to as the safer-at-home order,” said Ige. “COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on our economy. This is the first step in reopening businesses and getting people back to work.”
The next steps to the reopening plan could be implemented in the coming weeks if progress against the disease continues, Ige said.
“We anticipate making further announcements in the coming weeks,” he said, mentioning restaurants, hair salons, and places of worship as considerations for the next phase of reopening.
But, Ige warned, “The health of the community is still our overriding priority. We have seen a recurrence in several places around the world and we need to make sure that this doesnʻt happen in Hawaiʻi.”
If the new rules cause an uptick in cases, “Some of the restrictions may need to be reinstated,” Ige said. “Your efforts have made this reopening possible. Your vigilance and commitment to social distancing are helping us win the fight against COVID-19. We are not out of the woods yet, but we are getting there.”
Although encouraging people to shop at local businesses to stimulate the economy, Ige repeated the guidance, “You are safer at home.”
Mayor Michael Victorino Tuesday shared Igeʻs optimism in looking at recent low positive COVID-19 test results, but continued to express caution and ask for Maui residents to cooperate with social distancing and hygiene recommendations.
“Iʻm not gonna just jump the gun and try to be out in front of everybody in this respect,” said Victorino. Medical facilities in the county are limited, he explained, with small hospitals on Lanaʻi and Molokaʻi, and only 26 ICU beds and 24 ventilators for all of Maui island.
“This whole county has done a very terrific job as far as compliance and following directions and following the policies set by not only the state, not only by the CDC and the feds, but here in the county itself and Iʻm very grateful for that. Again remember, this will only work if you put the right foot forward,” Victorino said.
“I will open up as called for, but if anything starts to go wrong, I will not hesitate to shut down again,” said Victorino. “And I donʻt want to do that, so help me do it right. You can make a difference… You can prevent COVID-19 from coming back if you follow these basic guidelines, what the CDC, WHO, as well as the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Health has put out there.” One guideline he emphasized was that although some stores would be open, they are not open for socializing and meandering aisles, but for focused shopping.
Victorino added that testing would continue to be ramped up in the county, including upcoming antibody testing. Also in the works is a “Kamaʻaina Jumpstart” program to stimulate the economy by encouraging locals to shop at locally owned businesses, which will in turn have special deals for kamaʻaina.
Last week, Victorino ordered the opening of select county parks for limited use, as well as golf courses. The latest county rules and open park list is available at Mauicounty.gov. The state “safer-at-home” order rules are at Governor.hawaii.gov. As of noon May 6, there have been 626 total cases in the state. Seventeen have died of COVID-19, 558 have been released from isolation, and 74 required hospitalization. In Maui County, there have been 116 total cases, with 6 deaths, 17 requiring hospitalization, and 93 released from isolation. The latest data and guidance from the state Department of Health is available at Hawaiicovid19.com.
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Do you live in a household with school-aged children? How have you adjusted to the stay-at-home order? Tell us about it!
Take the poll: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/stayathomekids