COVID-19 Emergency Measures Enforced as State Hopes to Prevent “Worst-Case Scenario”
The governor and four county mayors joined in announcing Labor Day weekend enforcement of COVID-19 measures amid an ongoing surge of the Delta variant in Hawaiʻi.
Governor: Hawaiʻi is in danger of moving toward a “Worst-Case Scenario”
Gov. Ige said the current spike in COVID-19 has put tremendous stress on hospitals and said the healthcare system across the state is “in danger of moving toward the worst-case scenairo.” He said, “In case that happens, we have heard from our healthcare leaders that people will not receive the care that they need, and certainly some may die. Our choices today and over this weekend can help prevent the worst-case scenario for our healthcare system.”
When asked about how close Hawaiʻi is to a “worst-case scenario,” Gov. Ige did not give a specific timeline, but said, “we are very close to that next step,” and encouraged everyone to stay within their family bubbles and avoid gatherings. He also reiterated that healthcare is stretched close to capacity, saying further action will be taken if deemed necessary.
“We face a Delta variant that is dangerous, that is rapidly growing, easily transmitted, and can cause severe consequences particularly to individuals who are not vaccinated,” said Jill Hoggard Green, PhD, RN, president & CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems.
“The worst-case scenario is that we have so many patients that we are unable to care for all of you and provide the right level of care,” said Jill Hoggard Green. “Right now our nurses and physicians and respiratory therapists are working so hard to keep it at the highest quality even though they’re stretched. But there will come a time, if it’s not stopped, where you can get overwhelmed and we saw that around the country, particularly in the first surges.”
Lieutenant Governor Josh Green has said Hawaiʻi can go up to about 500 COVID-19 hospitalizations, “before we really run into serious problems.” Hospitalizations statewide were at 448 on Friday, and dropped 4% to 430 today.
Jill Hoggard Green with Queen’s Health Systems said the threshold isn’t a specific number. “It’s actually, when do you no longer have the ability to effectively care for the next group of patients that are coming in and continue to care for the individuals you have,” said Green. “We’ve expanded our ICUs, I believe that most other hospitals have as well, and we will until we no longer can… Unfortunately there will be a limited time when we don’t have enough recourses, we don’t have enough nurses, physicians and equipment to take care of you.”
“If we all work together today, and wear our masks, get our vaccinations, stay safe at home, keep our bubbles tight, we can stop the transmission of the disease. If we do not, at some point in the–I think it’s within the next month–we will hit a point that we’re unable to meet the patients’ needs,” said Jill Hoggard Green.
She said ethical issues have been discussed regarding care in determining who gets the next level of care. “It’s something that I never want to see. It’s something we can prevent and we need to prevent it now,” she said.
“Today we stand united in pledging to devote state and county resources to enforcing our emergency measures, especially over this long Labor Day weekend. Our task was made easier with the passage of legislation this year that allows lesser emergency period penalties to be adopted by the governor and the mayors and today we will be taking that action,” said Gov. David Ige during a Friday afternoon press briefing.
More than 60,000 emergency order violations were issued last year on the Island of Oʻahu–each one punishable as a misdemeanor.
“This proved to be an overwhelming burden on our courts, our public defenders and our prosecutors and certainly we sought to find a more efficient way. Act 185 allows flexibility in the penalties for emergency order violations and increases fairness and judicial efficiency while still providing substantial deterrent to alleged violation of emergency orders,” said Gov. Ige.
Maui County Deputy Managing Director Josiah Nishita said this Act allows officers to issue citations for violations of public health rules, in addition to making arrests. “Individuals who gather in groups larger than 25 outside or more than 10 for indoor gatherings, or anyone refusing to wear a mask inside a public building will be subject to a $250 fine for their first offense. Businesses in violation and anyone cited in violation of a second offense, can be subjected to a $500 fine.”
Alana Pico, spokesperson for the Maui Police Department said, “With the recent increase in positive cases, we ask for the public’s continued assistance in wearing masks, practicing social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.”
She said Maui police will be actively enforcing the governor’s most recent mandate and County of Maui ordinances. “Starting today and continuing through Labor Day weekend, our traffic division will be conducting sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols at various locations to address impaired driving, speeding and other dangerous driving behaviors,” said Pico.
Maui Police Department, Acting Chief Dean Rickard said, “In preparation, over past month or so already, we kind of knew that with the numbers increasing that we would be better prepared by making plans already for the Labor Day weekend. All of our seven District Patrol Commanders were directed to put together contingency plans, which are going to be put into effect with additional personnel.” According to AC Rickard, patrol units that need supplemental help will utilize personnel from the support services and investigative services bureaus to assist as needed.
Voluntary Compliance vs Safer-at-Home
When asked why a 72-hour safer-at-home order was not imposed instead of the voluntary compliance, Gov. Ige said, “We’ve talked about further restrictions and the stay-at-home order would require closing all non-essential businesses all across the state. There is significant concern about the economic impact that a stay-at-home order would have. We are in the process of rehiring many in our community as business activity has increased. A stay-at-home order, shutting all non-essential businesses, would be devastating.”
In addition, Gov. Ige said, the additional federal aid that was provided during the last shutdown, is not available this time around. “The personal paycheck protection programs that assisted businesses during the last shutdowns, are not available during this time period. And certainly we believe that with a majority of individuals in our community fully vaccinated–we’re at 63% at this point in time–we have believed that the measured approach moving forward, was in everyone’s best interest,” said Gov. Ige.
The state is considering a field hospital, but Gov Ige said it’s a huge undertaking. “We do have a plan that would allow us to set up a field hospital at the convention center. There are a lot of requirements that would go into a field hospital and I think the biggest and most daunting one would be to come up with the personnel that we would need to staff that field hospital. So at this point in time, all of the facilities throughout the state are implementing surge activities. They’ve activated beds, they’ve reconfigured acute care and other beds to serve as ICU beds, and we have established surge capacity by setting external tents on many of our hospital facilities,” said Gov. Ige.