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State mulls Labor Day weekend mandates

The state will decide whether to prohibit large gatherings over Labor Day weekend by Wednesday, said Lt. Gov. Josh Green Monday.

In a livestreamed interview Monday, Green said he believes the state should implement a three-day “pause” over the long weekend, in order to prevent yet another surge of COVID-19 cases in a few weeks’ time.

Green said Gov. David Ige and the county mayors have discussed the matter and that a decision on whether to suspend gatherings over the weekend will be made by Wednesday.

The pause, Green said, would not entail a widespread shutdown of activity like that at the beginning of the pandemic.

“In my opinion, there should be absolutely no gatherings outside of our own circles, our family bubbles, over this Labor Day weekend,” Green said.

Although health officials have stated that shutdowns need to be about four weeks long in order to make a significant impact on COVID case numbers, Green said the intent of the pause would simply be to prevent situations like the last two Fourth of Julys, where large holiday gatherings led to sharp upticks in cases several weeks later.

“What the pause would be is just taking the gasoline out of the equation,” Green said. “Gasoline … that would be otherwise poured on our numbers, causing an explosion of additional cases. If you want to actually get these cases down significantly, you’re going to have to stop gatherings for … at least one or two cycles, which is two to four weeks.”

However, Green said the state must take decisive action — likely some form of shutdown, Green said — should the number of COVID patients in hospitals exceeds 500. As of Monday, 418 people were hospitalized with COVID statewide, representing nearly 20% of the available hospital beds in the state.

Even if that 500 patient threshold is met, Green said any future shutdown would be less all-encompassing than the wide-ranging lockdowns of last year.

“It would be significantly more targeted,” Green said. “You go out, your kids can go to school, you can go to work, but you’d only really go out to pick up food, groceries, that kind of thing.

“I don’t think, right now, we’re talking at all about shutting down schools or shutting down all of business,” Green continued. “It is very difficult to close down society when only 16% of our society who is eligible has chosen not to get vaccinated.”

Cyrus Johnasen, spokesman for Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth, said Monday afternoon that the county has no plans for further restrictions at this time. Last week, Ige approved a county rule that, among other things, limited indoor and outdoor gathering sizes to 10 people, closed park pavilions and prohibited canopies and pop-up tents at county parks.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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