City Council pushes mayor’s office to produce guidelines to help businesses reopen

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu City Council members expressed frustration with the mayor’s office on Sept. 15. They say specific guidelines should already be in place to help businesses reopen.

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The city says those guidelines will be ready soon, and that safety protocols had to be secured to prevent another surge.

Councilmember Heidi Tsuneyoshi says there needs to be a stronger sense of urgency to help small business owners. Many have been suffering for the past seven months and would like to know what they need to do so they can reopen safely.

“It’s very concerning to me that we’re still working on the guidelines. So we’re not ready to release it after seven months. We have a brand new department that has 30 new employees and we don’t have any guidelines at this point. How is that possible?” said Tsuyenoshi.

She points out that most of the business owners did what they were supposed to do during the first reopening, only to be forced to close again.

“They bought plexiglass, they modified their employee counts, they brought their restaurant capacity to numbers that isn’t even giving them any ability to make a profit. And we’re telling them well we have to work on behavior modification,” said Tsuyenoshi.

“We all share the sense of urgency but we have one shot to get this right. So we want to make sure we do this right,” said Hiro Toiya, director of the city’s Department of Emergency Management.

“If there is a sense of urgency, we should have seen the guidelines already,” said Tsuyenoshi.

The city’s managing director, Roy Amemiya, says part of the problem is that the city first had to make sure that it stepped up testing and contact tracing, and acquired hotel rooms to be able to isolate and quarantine those in need. Now the city is determining the threshold for the number of daily cases, probably 70 to 100, and the optimal positivity rate to allow more businesses to reopen.

“For these two sets of numbers you’ll be able to move from tier to tier and everybody in the city will be able to know when they can open on those two criteria,” said Amemiya.

He says the city has been working with the business community to see which threshold will work best. Details will be announced before the lockdown ends on Sept. 23.

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