Ige loosens restrictions with ‘safer-at-home’ proclamation

  • IGE

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald The parking lot of Prince Kuhio Plaza by Old Navy and Sears is empty Monday.

More Hawaii businesses will be permitted to reopen Thursday as per a new emergency proclamation from Gov. David Ige.

Announced on Tuesday, the governor’s latest proclamation allows “low-risk” businesses to reopen, so long as they follow social distancing guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

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Ige said during a news conference the businesses eligible for reopening include retail businesses and services, non-food agriculture, astronomical observatories and support facilities, car washes, pet grooming services, nonprofit organizations, shopping malls and wholesale and warehousing operations. Health care providers also will be allowed to resume elective surgeries.

These businesses can reopen as part of the “stabilization phase” of the state’s gradual economic recovery plan, Ige said.

A previous emergency proclamation allowed florists, car dealerships, automated service providers, mobile service providers, one-on-one service providers, certain estate services and golf courses to reopen last week.

Ige said the primary consideration for determining which businesses can reopen was how effectively they can implement social distancing protocols. Reopening businesses will still be required to maintain minimum distances between people, limit the number of simultaneous customers and require employees and customers to wear masks.

More specific guidelines will be included in the proclamation, Ige said. As of Tuesday afternoon, the full text of the proclamation had not been unveiled.

Daniel Kea, general manager of Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo, said the mall might reopen Thursday, depending on how many of its tenants are themselves able to reopen.

“A lot of them have already furloughed all their employees,” Kea said. “So if they can’t get back to work on Thursday, there wouldn’t be much of a point to reopen (the mall).”

However, Kea said the mall has plans for social distancing protocols whenever it does reopen, including the removal of all furniture and the closure of all vending machines and children’s rides. Depending on which stores can reopen, he also said access to entire wings of the mall might be restricted.

Ige said Tuesday that mall food courts will not be able to reopen, although food court restaurants can provide takeout-only service.

Bobbi Erskine, vice president of Hilo clothing store Bobbi Lynn’s Boutique, said her business would reopen Thursday with only two employees including herself.

“We’ll see how business goes at first and then take it from there,” Erskine said.

Erskine said the boutique will limit customers to only one or two at a time, but added that several prospective patrons told her they want to be the business’ first post-lockdown customers.

According to a Tuesday statement, the Maunakea Observatories are considering plans to gradually restart nightly science observations after having most telescope operations shut down for nearly two months.

The reopenings Thursday come after 14 consecutive days during which the number of new COVID-19 cases in the state stayed in the single digits, Ige said.

Four new cases were reported Tuesday, bringing the total number of Hawaii cases to 625. Because of the low rate of new cases, the governor said he thinks the state can safely reopen the economy in phases, but added he anticipates the rate of cases to consequently rise as a result.

“We have seen a recurrence (of COVID-19 cases) in several parts of the world, and we need to make sure that that doesn’t happen here in Hawaii,” Ige said. “So if we experience a second wave of COVID-19 cases, some of the restrictions may need to be reinstated.”

Other restrictions might be lifted in the future but will remain in place for now, including prohibitions on social gatherings, use of beaches for non-exercise purposes, access to state parks or the reopening of places of worship.

With more businesses and activities open to the public, Ige said the state’s stay-at-home order will henceforth be referred to as a “safer-at-home” order.

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“Although we encourage you to patronize the newly reopened businesses and activities, you are safer at home,” Ige said.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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