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Officials urge residents not to violate gathering restrictions over Labor Day weekend

The Hawaii Police Department will ramp up enforcement over Labor Day weekend in an effort to clamp down on illegal gatherings that could further the spread of COVID-19.

At a news conference Friday, Mayor Mitch Roth, Gov. David Ige and Hawaii’s other mayors urged residents to not gather outside of their own immediate household bubbles this weekend.

Roth warned he is prepared to issue citations and make arrests to prevent large gatherings.

“Nobody wants to give citations on a holiday weekend, but it’s something that, if we need to do, we will do, and we will cite people for violating the rules,” Roth said.

Roth did not announce new gathering restrictions Friday. The current restrictions limit indoor and outdoor gatherings to no more than 10 people. County parks will remain open, but no tents or tarps are allowed.

Hawaii Police Chief Paul Ferreira said police will have additional officers making patrols over the weekend to ensure compliance with the gathering rules.

“Don’t put our officers in the position where they must enforce the law through citations or arrests,” Ferreira said.

Roth also said he has discussed with his staff the possibility of a vaccine passport program for high-risk businesses such as restaurants or bars that would require employees to be vaccinated, but there are no immediate plans to implement such a program.

“We know that there’s a lot of people who may not be vaccinated who are in these jobs that, if we require (vaccination), could cause further financial hardship,” Roth said. “We don’t have a lot of the safety nets that we had last year.”

Roth said he is waiting to see whether Honolulu chooses to implement a similar program first.

Meanwhile, at a meeting Friday of the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19, Attorney General Clare Connors praised Hawaii County for being the first county in the state to implement new citations for COVID-related violations.

In July, Ige signed an act that allows counties to process violations of emergency rules under the traffic adjudication process, but so far only Hawaii County has done so.

Those found in violation of any COVID-19 rules, including the limitation on gatherings, can be fined $250.

Anyone found breaking quarantine can be fined $500.

The state’s other mayors on Friday urged residents to “do the right thing” and limit their contact with other people in order to prevent the number of coronavirus cases from further burdening the state’s medical system.

“Right now, this is about community, this is about everything we stand for as a people and taking care of each other,” said Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi. “It is not a time for individualism. You have no right to go out there and harm other people by virtue of being infected and infecting other people.”

Jill Green, president of The Queen’s Health Systems, said the state’s success or failure to prevent another large COVID-19 surge this weekend likely will determine whether hospitals become completely overwhelmed within the next month.

“The worst-case scenario is that we will have so many patients that we will be unable to care for all of you,” Green said. “There will come a time, if (the spread) is not stopped, where we can get overwhelmed.”

As of Friday, 448 people were hospitalized statewide with COVID-19.

If residents statewide do not immediately make serious efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, Green said she believes Hawaii within a month will no longer have sufficient health care personnel to take care of all patients.

Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, told the Senate committee he has submitted a proposal to bring additional health care workers to the state and to extend the contracts of the nearly 400 workers already sent here by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Under the proposal, 242 additional workers would be sent to Hawaii, 63 of whom would be assigned to the Big Island.

Email Michael Brestovansky at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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