HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Wednesday he wants to reimpose some limits on gatherings and bars to control the spread of the coronavirus as the state reported a record 109 new cases of the disease.
The governor said he agrees with Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s plan to close bars for three weeks. He said the state is also working with the other counties to restrict unsafe behavior at bars, yet avoid a broad shutdown.
The governor said he also wants to limit all gatherings to no more than 10 people. Exceptions would be made for schools and universities because of the safe practice protocols they will be implementing.
Officials blamed the surge in COVID-19 cases on people socializing without masks or keeping six feet (1.8 meters) away from each other, particularly since the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays. People have been spreading the disease at bars, funerals, church services, after-work outings and beach parties, officials said.
“We all must redouble our efforts to take personal responsibility and fight against the spread of COVID-19,” the governor said at a news conference.
Asked how he could justify reopening schools at a time when case numbers were surging, Ige said disease was still “within containment” and that virus levels in Hawaii were still lower than other states.
The state Board of Education on Thursday will consider a plan to delay the beginning of the school year to Aug. 17, two weeks later than the originally planned Aug. 4 date.
Ige and Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson said one of the challenges with bars is that you can’t wear a mask while drinking.
Plus, bars are often noisy, prompting people to speak loudly into someone else’s face or ears so they can be heard. This increases the potential for spreading the disease, Anderson said.
“You often are drinking enough that you’re inebriated, your judgment goes down and and you’re not paying attention to a lot of things that you would in other venues. So they’re inherently a risky activity” Anderson said.
Two Honolulu bars are associated with 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Anderson said.
Anderson said the state is using existing regulatory authority over food establishments to enforce coronavirus guidelines at bars.
Bars in violation of the rules are given a warning and those that ignore the warning are issued a red placard shutting them down.
“That’s a huge deterrent for any restaurant or bar,” Anderson said.
Of the 109 cases, 98 were on Oahu, nine were on Maui and two were on Kauai. Only a few were associated with people who had recently traveled to Hawaii from out of state.
Anderson said the percentage of people receiving a positive result after taking a COVID-19 test is up to nearly 6% from 1-2% earlier in the outbreak.