Healthcare providers: State’s COVID-19 guidelines ‘not enough’

  • YAMAUCHI

  • ZYSMAN

  • KIM

  • IGE

A group of about 100 Hawaii doctors and health care professionals said Gov. David Ige’s recommended measures announced Tuesday to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus need to have the force of law.

“Our governor’s actions … were a start, but not enough,” Deborah Zysman, executive director of Hawaii Children’s Action Network, said in a statement Wednesday. “Gov. Ige must mandate extreme social distancing measures before the spread worsens.”

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The governor on Tuesday requested that bars and clubs close and restaurants move to a takeout/drive-through delivery mode until the potentially deadly virus has run its court. He also urged visitors to postpone plans to come to Hawaii for at least 30 days.

According to the group, the governor should order the closure of nonessential businesses and ask everyone to stay home.

The group is urging extreme social distancing measures to be enacted before the spread worsens. Their recommendations include closure of all nonessential businesses, sending home all nonessential government employees, only takeout food from restaurants, and shutting down bars and other entertainment venues.

They also are advocating the postponement or cancellation all travel and social events, medical screening of everyone entering the state, adequate facilities for those affected by COVID-19, free testing, and the waiving the requirement for an order by a primary care physician to conduct tests.

“Hawaii is fortunate to have a relatively small number of patients right now, but this number will continue to increase,” said Jessica Yamauchi, executive director of the Hawaii Public Health Institute. “We recently saw our first confirmed case of community spread; if we wait to act until the situation gets worse, it will be too late.”

On Wednesday, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami instituted an emergency rule declaring an islandwide nighttime curfew between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. daily, beginning Friday. The only exceptions will be those commuting to and from work, working for an essential service provider with a shift within the curfew window, deliveries of food or household supplies, and those seeking medical attention.

And Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed an order Wednesday ordering all restaurants, bars and nightclubs in the city to shut down all indoor dining starting at 8:30 p.m. Friday for at least 15 days.

Those establishments will still be able to provide takeout, drive-through and delivery food service.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said because Hawaii Island is larger and more sparsely populated than the other major islands, the concerns are different here. Unlike the state, where workers deemed nonessential have been ordered to stay home, all Hawaii County workers have been ordered to work.

Kim defended that decision Wednesday.

“People have to understand the why,” Kim said. “And I guarantee you it is to make sure we do our job of what it is we’re paid to do … with police, fire, water (and) environmental management. We can’t allow anybody to close that, because in two days we’ve got a compounded problem.”

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“I know people are scared,” he continued. “I know because of my past job (as Civil Defense director). This county was the first county in the United States, except for San Francisco, to declare a state of emergency.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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