Stay-at-home order is back in place on Oahu

Diners at Morimoto Asia Waikiki. The Oahu stay-at-home order prohibits on-site dining, either indoors or al fresco.
Diners at Morimoto Asia Waikiki. The Oahu stay-at-home order prohibits on-site dining, either indoors or al fresco.

In an effort to get a handle on a spiking coronavirus infection rate on the island of Oahu, Hawaii officials have reimposed strict business and public gathering regulations.

The renewed stay-at-home/work-from-home order went into effect Aug. 27. It is slated to last for two weeks and applies only to Honolulu County, which encompasses the island of Oahu. The order comes as there are 4,472 active coronavirus cases on what is Hawaii's most populous island; of the nearly 7,000 cases reported in Hawaii as of Aug. 26, 91% have been on Oahu.

The emergency order impacts many types of businesses, and the island's parks, beaches and trails will remain closed. Salons and gyms are forced to close, and restaurants are prohibited from offering dine-in service, either indoor or al fresco. Essential businesses such as healthcare, gas stations, banks, grocery stores and childcare providers are allowed to continue operations with social distancing protocols.

"We need to get this virus under control, and the only way we do that is by eliminating opportunities where the virus can spread and identifying where it is," Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell said at a press conference announcing the emergency order. "Asking our island community to stay at home and work from home for the next two weeks will isolate individuals who may be carrying the virus and prevent further spread."

• Related: Gatherings on Oahu restricted after virus surge

Indoor and outdoor social gatherings of any type are prohibited, while retail and real estate businesses, auto dealerships, golf courses and other nonessential businesses have been shuttered for at least two weeks. Individuals in Hawaii who are not subject to quarantine can leave their residence to perform essential activities or essential work, such as medical care, exercise and to get a coronavirus test. While beaches are closed, people are allowed to cross them to access the ocean water for outdoor recreational purposes, such as surfing, paddling and swimming.

In addition to the business and public gathering restrictions, the state officials, with help from the federal government, are increasing testing, contact tracing and quarantine efforts.

The state plans to conduct "surge testing" of 60,000 tests in 12 days on Oahu, which is being funded and supported by the federal government and will require the hiring of hundreds of new contact tracers. Additionally, Honolulu County is looking for more than 100 additional hotel rooms to use for isolation and quarantine.

In April, Hawaii was reporting single-digit coronavirus cases each day, but since mid-July the numbers have been increasing, and daily infection reports are now typically in the triple digits. The Pacific Islander population in Hawaii makes up a disproportionate amount of coronavirus cases in the state. The group makes up just 4% of the state's population but accounts for 30% of all cases.

"We can get through this," Caldwell said. "We can do this. We did it once. We can do it again, and when we reopen it'll be different than the first time."

The original stay-at-home order for Oahu took effect on March 23, with gradually easing of restrictions beginning in early June.


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