Hawaii officials announce Labor Day weekend COVID enforcement plan to stop large gatherings

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — After a week of press conferences and announcements, Hawaii officials are making one last plea to the public to act responsibly over Labor Day weekend.

On Friday, Gov. David Ige held a news conference to discuss the enforcement of COVID emergency measures. County mayors, representatives for county police departments, as well as the president & CEO of The Queen’s Health System, also joined the governor to answer questions.

Ige is urging everyone to behave responsibly during the holiday weekend, calling the Delta variant’s impact on Hawaii hospitals “unprecedented and disastrous.”

In a video statement released on Thursday, he said: “Your choices can help our community prevent the worst-case scenario in our hospital system. Please act responsibly this holiday weekend and moving forward – as we battle this highly transmissible and deadly virus. Do it – for the sake of your family, our community and our state.”

The governor and county mayors have been asking residents to avoid large gatherings and close contacts as coronavirus cases continue to surge. Ige even suggested setting self-imposed curfews and limiting certain high-risk activities as hospitals reach their limits. However, he will not impose any statewide mandates or restrictions for this weekend, saying what works in one county might not work in another.

On Oahu, police are seeking voluntary compliance to avoid having to hand out citations. There will be officers deployed throughout the weekend checking beach parks and responding to calls about gatherings. Those who violate emergency orders are subject to a $250 fine, with an emphasis on those who gather in large groups and fail to wear masks indoors.

“Nobody likes to be told that we’re going to enforce and just mandate things, but the reality is right now, this is about community,” Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said. “It is not a time for individualism.”

Current rules limit gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors through Sept. 22, which may be extended based on conditions. Effective Sept. 13, restaurants, bars, gyms and other venues on Oahu will require proof of a COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test. Click here for details.

Ige signed an executive order on Aug. 10 that set statewide limits for social gatherings, restaurants, bars and social establishments. The mandate limits social gatherings to 10 indoors and 25 outdoors until October. Maui County, however, had the social gathering limits since at least mid-June.

On Maui, a modified version of Safe Access Oahu is in the works that will require customers to show proof of vaccination, but it will be up to the businesses to mandate employees to be vaccinated. Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino said the program may start Sept. 15, but more details will be released next week.

On the Big Island, Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said those caught breaking the rules will be cited $250, as the island continues to have the highest positivity rate in the state. All social gatherings have been reduced to 10 people indoors and 10 outdoors. Members of a single residence are not restricted.

“No mandate is going to slow down the spread without full participation from every one of us,” Roth said. “So we need the community to really take responsibility, not just for yourselves, but for the keiki, for the kupuna, for the healthcare workers, for all of us. Do what’s right for all of us because we’re stronger together.”

On Kauai, there will be no additional restrictions, however, the Kauai Police Department will be deploying COVID enforcement teams. Those who don’t wear their masks when they’re supposed to or don’t comply with gathering sizes will be cited $250. Businesses that refuse to follow the rules will receive a $500 citation.

“We want to remind people the steps to take are simple: wear your mask indoors, avoid large gatherings, and if you do, do it outside,” Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said.

DOCARE officers will also be out in force throughout the weekend, seizing any equipment used to facilitate large gathering if necessary. That includes generators, sound equipment, and tents.

State officials are also reminding people about the dangers of driving under the influence of a substance, as hospitals continue struggling with capacity levels.

Honolulu Emergency Services Department Director Dr. James Ireland told KHON2 that calls are nonstop for COVID patients, along with injured hikers and beachgoers who need to be rescued. He said those calls lead to more patients at hospitals during a time when many facilities are already stretched thin.

On Friday, Healthcare Association of Hawaii President and CEO Hilton Raethel shared new hospitalization data during the Senate Special COVID-19 Committee Informational Briefing.

He said Hawaii hit a new record with 446 COVID patients currently hospitalized statewide. There are also 224 adult ICU patients.

“It is very possible that some of our hospitals would be operating under crisis standards of care right now if we did not have this FEMA funded staff in the hospitals,” Raethel said.

According to Raethel, several hospitals are above licensed ICU bed capacity, including Queen’s Medical Center (Punchbowl), Adventist Health Castle, Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub, Wahiawa, Kuakini Medical Center and Hilo Medical Center. Two additional hospitals are at capacity.

“That means that every hospital on Oahu with ICU beds, except for Tripler and Kapiolani, is at or over their ICU capacity,” he said during the briefing.

Watch the Senate Special COVID-19 Committee Informational Briefing below:

Find more COVID-19 news: cases, vaccinations on our Coronavirus News page

To report an illegal gathering, call the DLNR hotline at 643-DLNR (3567) or send photos/videos via their DLNRTip app. Tips are completely anonymous.

For more of KHON2’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

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