HONOLULU (KHON2) — Despite a surge in COVID cases and the second-highest daily case count of 1,511 since the pandemic started, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi does not plan to shut things down. He said it is about ‘personal responsibility’ and is urging everyone to get vaccinated or boosted because that is the best defense against the virus.
Blangiardi did not mince words addressing the gravity of the situation.
“We’re up against something now that’s not going away,” he said. “Our anticipation on a going forward basis is these case counts will continue to grow. We’ve got to deal with that as a matter of reality,” explained Blangiardi.
This new reality includes living with the coronavirus as test sites have been jam-packed with long lines of cars stretching down the block. Blangiardi said if people have been in close contact with others who have tested positive, they should get tested.
“I know the state is trying to get as many rapid tests, I would encourage people to test, as well, as part of the precautionary as much as possible,” Blangiardi stated.
Even with Honolulu’s positivity rate now at 10.4%, Blangiardi said he is not tightening restrictions — yet. Instead, he is asking people to act responsibly.
One thing he is pushing — vaccinations.
“This aggressivity of this disease is not like anything we’ve seen to date. But we do know that if people have been vaccinated, they are really well protected against this,” he continued.
Blangiardi also said there are 93 city workers out with COVID. He said the city is doing its best to ensure core operations are intact. Vaccinations are required for city employees, and he is now incentivizing booster shots.
“If they’ve already gotten it, or if they’re going to get it going forward, we’re going to give them a full day off — eight hours,” he explained.
Honolulu Emergency Management Director Hiro Toiya said the city is also taking over quarantine housing for those with COVID, which is a service previously run by the state.
“This is going to be a finite resource,” Toiya explained. “And given the number of cases we’ve seen, this can’t be the total solution to our COVID situation right now.”
Toiya said they are trying to retain 30 units.
“The referral for this is currently through the department of health and with the community health centers. But right now, we’re working to extend the contract for these things so there may be a temporary disruption in the availability of services,” added Toiya.
Blangiardi also noted that case counts and positivity rates are two deciding factors for what comes next. The third and most critical factor are the hospitalization numbers — which is currently at 69 people hospitalized.
“We think 200 people, 150 to 200, is going to cause some real serious concern,” he explained. “That’s going to be the trigger to looking at what then we may have to do.”
If things get to that point, the first thing Blangiardi said he would do is suspend large gatherings. He hopes it will not come to that so he wants to ensure businesses are following the current Safe Access Oahu guidelines.
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“I’m going to encourage anybody who goes to a restaurant if they’re not checking your vaccination card and asking you for proper identification, report them and we will shut down those places,” Blangiardi stated.