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Mayor asks OK for stricter COVID-19 restrictions


Mayor Mitch Roth last week proposed tougher restrictions to curb the wave of COVID-19 cases in Hawaii County.

Pressure on the island’s hospitals is behind the new or reinstated restrictions outlined in Emergency Rule 17. The measure has been sent to Governor David Ige for approval, which Roth expects to happen this time. week.

Among other provisions, the new executive order would close county parks and recreational facilities, including beach and shore parks.

The rule, however, still allows people to walk through county beach parks between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily to access the ocean for exercise, fish or collect food, and use toilets and showers.

The State Department of Lands and Natural Resources did not respond to questions about possible restrictions at state parks, such as the Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area, on Friday, a statutory holiday. However, it is expected that state parks will also be closed.

Nothing in the proposed order prevents companies, operations or other sponsors of activities from requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from employees or customers as a condition of entry into the company or participation to an activity.

Face masks are still required as part of the governor’s August 5 emergency proclamation, but the county will also require people to wear masks in outdoor locations where more than 10 people are gathered and where a social distancing of 6 feet is difficult to maintain or impractical.

The group size allowed for social gatherings remains up to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

Roth said on Friday afternoon that the governor would have “some tweaks to some of our rules, but I’m not exactly sure what it is.”

While some previous emergency proclamations from the governor had recognized the progress made in dealing with the ongoing public health crisis and relaxed some restrictions that had been implemented to slow the spread of the virus, the arrival of the Delta variant highly transmissible has resulted in the number of cases in Hawaii reaching record highs.

“The dramatic increase in the community spread of COVID-19 has resulted in increased hospitalizations and strained health care resources, including the use of all intensive care hospital beds on the island,” said said Roth in the proposed rule, a copy of which was provided to the Tribune. Herald last week. “Without immediate action, Hawaii County is unable to meet the urgent health care needs of our island community. As a result, it has become necessary to reapply more stringent restrictions in order to reduce the threat of spread and allow our health care resources to meet urgent health care needs attributable to the spread of COVID-19. “

Roth reiterated that sentiment on Friday and said if the impacts on hospitals weren’t as great as they are, “we wouldn’t have to do this.”

But will new restrictions be enough to stem the tide of COVID infections?

“The rules will only do a certain amount to keep people safe and healthy,” said Roth, who visited hospitals on the Big Island last week. “Really, our whole community will have to do the right thing, take it upon itself to protect everyone. Hopefully the rules get people to do things, but unless the community takes responsibility for protecting their children, the kupuna and everyone else, it’s going to be tough, and we’ll see the numbers we see.

Roth said most people hospitalized are not vaccinated.

“What is really concerning is that each of our hospitals that I visited this week, each of the ERs, spoke of situations where people had to wait in the ER for a room – not just hours, but hours. days. It’s happening. … When people end up waiting to get to the ER, bad things happen, ”he said.

“I had a heart attack earlier this year. If I had ended up waiting in an ambulance because the ER couldn’t see me, I probably wouldn’t have made it. … We hope the rules get people to think, to take things a little more seriously, but until the community really understands that this is all our kuleana… ​​to make a difference, we’ll see our numbers continue to (go up).

The state of emergency will remain in effect until October 4, unless it is extended, repealed, replaced or amended.

As proposed, those violating the emergency rule will be fined $ 250 for each violation, a new provision. Those who violate mandatory quarantine requirements will be fined $ 500 for each violation.

Before the new emergency rule, Roth said violations were a misdemeanor, but the state legislature approved a measure that allows counties to impose fines.

This gives the police the opportunity to issue quotes similar to traffic quotes, and “to do something and spread the net much more widely.”

Lt. Gov. Josh Green raised the possibility of further restrictions during a live broadcast on Friday.

“We absolutely have to restrict all large gatherings, period,” said Green, a Big Island doctor. “They can’t go on. We will have to enforce this in any way we can.

Green said nearly 83% of the state’s eligible population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while the remaining 17% see COVID “raging.”

“And people ask, and they ask it openly, ‘Is it right to shut down all of society when 83% of people have chosen to protect themselves or their families in their community?’ “, did he declare. “Is it fair to shut down all businesses and go bankrupt or close schools when our children need to be educated?”

“You can make a compelling case that it’s just not fair to all of the people who did the right thing and won’t get seriously ill,” Green continued. “The problem, of course, is that the hospitals are full.

“So what we’re trying to do is try to be fair to the people who made the right choice to protect themselves and their community, and do whatever we can to support the hospitals. “

Journalist John Burnett contributed to this story.


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