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State briefs for September 23

Honolulu to loosen some COVID-19 rules

HONOLULU — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Tuesday the city plans to allow some activities that were shut down last month to control the spread of the coronavirus to resume under new guidelines.

Beginning Thursday, the city will allow social gatherings of up to five people, including at beaches and hiking trails. Retail businesses will be allowed to open at 50% of capacity.

Caldwell said Gov. David Ige verbally approved the new guidelines, but had not signed them yet.

Restaurants would be allowed to seat up to five diners at a table as long as the patrons provide their names and contact information so tracers can reach them later if necessary. Diners will have to wear masks when they are not eating.

Honolulu again adopted strict restrictions a month ago after cases began to spike after hovering at low levels when the pandemic began. Honolulu’s new daily case count has since declined.

The guidelines call for restrictions to be relaxed further if cases continue to drop.

The city will consider COVID-19 seven-day average case counts and seven-day average percentage of positive tests when determining how loose or restrictive to be.

The city developed the new framework in consultation with state Department of Health epidemiologists and officials.

Police investigate desecration at Oahu cemetery

HONOLULU — Police on Oahu opened an investigation following the desecration of headstones at a cemetery.

Headstones were toppled at the Waianae cemetery on the western side of the island last week.

The Honolulu Police Department said a family submitted a report of vandalism and the department started a desecration investigation at the cemetery.

Desecration is a misdemeanor, but the law was amended in 2002 to increase the penalty to one year in jail, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

The enhanced penalties resulted from vandalism at cemeteries that prompted lawmakers to conclude the misdemeanor penalties were insufficient deterrents.

Waianae Hongwanji Temple owns the cemetery but no longer has weekly services or a priest assigned to the cemetery. The Waianae temple’s membership board did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Honolulu expected to replace railway director after 3 years

HONOLULU — The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation is expected to remove the head of its $9.2 billion rail transit project.

The authority’s human resources committee recommended replacing Executive Director and CEO Andrew Robbins, the city’s highest-paid employee, earning $317,000 annually.

Robbins’ three-year contract expired Sept. 4 and his employment agreement ends at the close of 2020.

The authority’s board plans to discuss reasons to terminate Robbins and a possible successor Thursday in a closed session.

Robbins, 62, spearheaded the authority’s recovery plan and steered the project toward the start of limited service next year.

The rail development, the state’s largest public works project, has experienced a series of delays. The date for completing the first 10-mile segment of the line from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium was scheduled for December but is now set for March.

The final, downtown leg stretching 4 miles is expected to be the most expensive segment and the selection of a private developer has been pushed back several times.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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