Ige: Lockdown is an Option, but There’s No “Magic Number” to Trigger Implementation
With COVID-19 cases continuing a surge in the islands, discussion of lockdowns and mandates have surfaced in government circles with Honolulu being the latest to modify rules relating to large gatherings.
Governor David Ige said he had a discussion with Maui Mayor Michael Victorino on Monday morning and planned to re-engage on Monday afternoon to discuss proposed restrictions, however both have yet to release details or progress on any one item.
“Certainly we are all concerned with the surging cases and have been monitoring hospital capacity all across the state. So I will be looking at Mayor Victorino’s request about further restrictions on Maui,” said Gov. Ige said during a press briefing on Monday in response to Maui Now’s inquiry.
Although no mandates were issued, the governor on Monday urged Hawaiʻi residents and visitors to delay non-essential travel through the end of October 2021 due to the recent, accelerated surge in COVID-19 cases that he said is now burdening the state’s health care facilities and resources.
When asked about proposed health passes for restaurants or other more solid recommendations, Gov Ige said that for every business that encourages a mandate, there are other businesses that express concerns that they’re “on the brink of closure and a mandate would push them over the edge.”
“It is about trying to find the right balance,” he said. “We do recognize that mandates impact many in our community and to the extent that we can encourage action, that would be preferable, but we are prepared to mandate action necessary if necessary when we get to the breaking point.”
As for a potential lockdown, Gov. Ige said it is something that has been discussed, but there’s no specific number of cases that would trigger such action.
“We are very much concerned with the continuing high case numbers that we’re seeing. We know that our hospitals are working very hard to be able to treat everyone. I wish I could tell you that there’s a specific magic number, at which point we will look at a lockdown, but there isn’t. It really is about working with the healthcare system, taking the actions that we can to be able to expand services and capacity, and then at the point that we feel that we don’t have any other resources to expand capacity, then certainly we will have to look at more drastic action,” he said.
Gov. Ige said it’s difficult to provide specific conditions that would trigger a lockdown, but said, “Is a lockdown on the table? Yes. It would be if the number of cases continues to grow exponentially… then we will have to take action to limit and ensure that the hospitals are not overwhelmed,” said Gov. Ige. “I don’t have a specific number, but certainly we are in contact with the hospitals every single day about their current situation, about the number of patients they are seeing, and about their capacity to serve our community with quality health care.”
Gov. Ige said the state is working on surge plans at every health care facility to expand capacity. “We are transitioning acute care beds to be able to support those who are sick, and so I do know that that’s a risk, but I do believe that as a community that’s a risk we have to take to discourage travel to the islands until we can get to a better place with our healthcare facilities.”
While the state does have expansion and surge plans, including the ability to retrofit facilities to be able to service additional patients, staffing may not be available.
“The challenge that we will face at this point is, when I checked the CDC site this morning, the entire country is lit up red as extremely high activity of COVID in every single state across the country. Lots of those surge plans that deal with establishing a field hospital or a facility to expand capacity, rely on federal support for doctors and medical professionals to help staff that surge hospital. And we don’t believe we would be in position to get support because every state is facing a similar situation to what we’re seeing right now,” said Gov. Ige.
According to state Health Director Dr. Libby Char, Hawaiʻi’s COVID-19 numbers have gone up for the past 10 Mondays. “We have just steadily climbed since then. So really the question to me is what are we doing to prevent us being in that situation where our hospitals are overrun and we’re looking at further surge capacity, and that gets back to all of us. What have you done to prepare?”
Over the past 10 days, Dr. Char said the state has ramped up testing, and tried to increase the capacity of isolation quarantine facilities, on-board more people, and increase the capacity for contact tracing and case investigations. “It’s been really tough because we just don’t have that many more people on this island to help do those things,” she said.