Wary of a potential surge in coronavirus cases, state and county leaders Monday warned people to be extra careful during the upcoming Fourth of July weekend to guard against the kind of reckless behavior that could lead to further spread of COVID-19.
“It’s not a time to let our guard down, but to up our guard,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.
Officials said they hope to avoid the kinds of COVID-19 surges now being seen in some states, but no extra restrictions were announced.
“I want to remind people that there is a personal responsibility,” said Gov. David Ige, speaking on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s daily “COVID-19 Care Conversation” show. “We can only be successful if each of us takes the responsibility to physical-distance and not interact with others.”
Ige urged people to avoid crowds. But if you do attend a gathering, he said, stay 6 feet apart and wear a face covering as a way of reducing transmission.
Caldwell, who held a news conference near Honolulu Hale, said people should be extra vigilant this weekend.
“This virus has extremely deadly consequences, so we have got to assume everybody has it. We need to wear our face coverings. We need to practice physical distancing,” he said.
Caldwell said that if people are outside, they should gather in groups of no more than 100, while inside should be groups of no more than 50.
“And really, you should be within your own family unit being very, very careful,” the mayor said. “And I would request those who are out at our beaches this coming weekend, if at all possible, wear your face covering — even if it’s hot. When you’re eating your musubi or your teri chicken, no, but otherwise.
“Just assume that someone you love could get sick from you or you could get sick from them. If we can do this, we’ll get through this weekend. And we can continue to manage to open up and get to somewhere where there’s a vaccine on the horizon, and we can breathe a lot easier and start taking off our face coverings,” he said.
Caldwell pointed to Texas, California, Arizona and Florida as places Hawaii does not to aspire to be like.
“There you are seeing irresponsible actions taken, sometimes by leaders, including our president, who somehow implied that wearing a face covering was a sign of weakness, that you aren’t macho enough,” he said.
Some people — and even some governors as well — have taken that anti-mask message to heart, he said.
“And now those very same governors are telling their residents to pull back. Florida is closing beaches on the Fourth of July. We don’t have to do that. The people of Oahu and the state of Hawaii have greater responsibility and kuleana to their ohana to not jeopardize everyone like they’ve done in some of these places.”
A Los Angeles Times analysis of coronavirus data points to Memorial Day as the beginning of California’s current surge in cases.
New coronavirus hospitalizations in California began accelerating in mid-June at a rate not seen since early April, according to the Times. Today the daily number of people in California hospitals with COVID-19 has jumped nearly 50% from when it was stable in mid-April. As of Saturday there were nearly 5,000 people hospitalized, while the daily average in mid-April was roughly 3,100.
In Arizona, where the daily infection total is now regularly surpassing the 3,000 mark, the governor ordered bars, nightclubs and water parks to close again for at least a month starting Monday night.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who began opening the state in mid-May, also ordered public schools to delay the start of classes until at least Aug. 17.
In Hawaii, meanwhile, there were two new coronavirus cases Monday as the statewide total number of infections since the start of the outbreak rose to 900, state Department of Health officials said.
The two cases are adults on Oahu, the lowest daily count since June 8. In the past three weeks, Hawaii has had an uptick in new infections as officials loosened restrictions in a move to reopen Hawaii’s ravaged economy.
Elsewhere, the state Health Department said it wants people to know that the “Face Mask Exempt Card” circulating on social media is fake.
The card says the holder is exempt from wearing a mask because it poses a mental or physical risk. It also states that under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the holder isn’t required to disclose what type of condition they have. This is not true.
“DOH is urging people not to rely on information contained in these social media postings and to visit ADA.gov for accurate information,” the department said in a news release.