All of Hawaii’s careful planning and efforts to prevent COVID-19 from overrunning the state couldn’t contend with the highly infectious Delta variant, it seems, which is now spreading like wildfire on the islands.
With 16,000 new cases cropping up this month, the situation has gotten bad enough that Hawaii officials are considering putting the state back into full lockdown if conditions continue to worsen.
Since last week, Governor David Ige and Hawaii’s county mayors have been discussing the possibility of bringing back tougher travel and social restrictions amid a surge that continues to break state records.
A few days ago, the governor pleaded with potential tourists to stop coming to Hawaii right now, as the summer’s swell of visitors from the mainland has caused crowding, making it that much easier for the virus to spread, and is impacting residents’ quality of life. But, he stopped short of issuing any official policy changes.
The mayors of each county seem to be in agreement that something must be done now, or the surge could overwhelm the state’s limited healthcare resources. Mayors have been asking for stricter mandates and, although everyone is loath to be forced to return to lockdown, Ige said that, if case counts continue rising, “and we push the hospitals across that line then we will have to go to more extreme measures, lockdowns and potentially shutting businesses,” according to the Associated Press.
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino last week requested of the public that they wear masks, practice social distancing and, most of all, get vaccinated. He also asked that tourists voluntarily remain inside their resort bubbles. Since then, however, he has submitted his own proposed restrictions for the county for state approval and is expected to announce them soon. According to KHON2, Victorino recently said, “There comes a point where sometimes you’ve got to take punitive action because incentives don’t seem to work.”
Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth has said his county is being overwhelmed by the Delta variant, that hospitals are already full and that some patients are so ill that they should be flown to Honolulu for advanced care. However, “Honolulu’s hospitals are filled up,” he said last week. “We have great concerns, we have people who have been waiting in ER’s for, not just hours, but days because they can’t get a room.”
Roth has already submitted his proposals for tightened emergency restrictions to the governor for approval. “We sent a request to go back to pre-testing everybody coming to the state, whether they’ve been vaccinated or not, because we know a lot of people have been getting the virus. Our numbers are higher today, I think than they’ve ever been,” he continued.
The Big Island’s mayor has also proposed closing down beaches and parks for everything but distanced exercise, as residents and visitors have been packing themselves too close together while trying to enjoy the summer weather.
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