Gov. and mayors clear the air on when businesses can open

Coronavirus

After conflicting messages from the state and counties on the reopening of businesses, both sides seemed to have cleared the air.

Oahu retailers will open Friday, May 15. Other counties such as Kauai and the Big Island can open Thursday, May 14. Maui will open on Monday, May 11.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says the confusion is now water under the bridge. Allowing Oahu stores to wait until next Friday gives them extra time to comply with social distancing measures. And he’s also hoping that by then, the city will be able to do its own testing and contact tracing.

“The good news is we’re moving forward. It’s clear on Oahu that retail will open up on the 15th of May. It gives businesses enough time to go get ready to open up because there’s many modifications they need to make,” said the mayor.

Retailers can open but only allow 50% occupancy, and must provide hand sanitizing stations at the doors. Cash registers also need to be spaced out so there’s six feet of distance between people standing in line.

On Tuesday, the mayor and the governor clearly were not on the same page. Gov. David Ige said retailers can open Thursday, which took the mayor by surprise because he wanted to open next week. Hours later, the governor said Oahu can open next week.

“Clearly the state order just enables activities and businesses are allowed to start but they are not required to start. They can begin operations at the time they are ready to do that,” said the governor.

The mayor says that extra week will also give the city time to ramp up testing and contact tracing, which is something he’s been trying to get approved by the state health department. Guidelines call for Oahu to have 300 people trained.

“And we understand the Department of Health has 30. The only way we make sure that we protect our public is to hire many more people trained now and ready to go,” said Caldwell.

But the governor says the state has new software which experts believe will reduce the amount of people needed for contact tracing.

“They see a tremendous opportunity to reduce the work involved and expand the number of cases and people that they can track with the use of technology. So we do believe we have a game plan that deals with appropriate levels of staffing,” said Ige.

On Maui, Mayor Mike Victorino announced that retail stores, repair services, and malls can open on Monday, May 11, as long as they follow state safety guidelines.

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