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State tightens clamp on social distancing, evictions

Gov. David Ige formally suspended until the end of April all residential evictions for people missing rent payments, according to his latest COVID-19 emergency proclamation.

The proclamation prohibits any rent increases and suspends remedies available to landlords to evict tenants for failing to pay rent and other fees until at least April 30, although Ige announced at a Friday news conference that he is discussing with other state officials the possibility of extending the emergency period beyond the end of this month.

While evictions were already effectively suspended in the state – the state Judiciary has suspended several of its functions, including eviction proceedings, until April 30 — Ige said the proclamation better clarifies the state’s position and imposes penalties of up to one year in jail or up to a $5,000 fine for landlords who violate it.

The proclamation also sets more stringent requirements for essential businesses that continue to operate during the lockdown, mandating six-foot distances between all customers and staff, limited customer occupancy, regular disinfection, face masks for all staff and customers, and more.

It also requires that groups of no more than two people are permitted on recreational boats in state waters or on state trails, unless a larger group is composed solely of a single residential or family unit sharing the same address.

Still further, the proclamation reiterates that all state beaches are closed, although they can still be passed through in order to access the ocean for water recreation.

Mayor Harry Kim issued a similar proclamation Friday, stating that nine county parks — Kahalu‘u, Magic Sands, Wai‘aha Bay, Honoli‘i, Kaipalaoa Landing, Bayfront and Reed’s Bay beach parks, Kawaihae Canoe Area and Lili‘uokalani Gardens — are available from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily for the specific purposes of shoreline access, fishing and food gathering, and restroom access.

In other COVID-19 developments, 12 more confirmed cases were reported Friday, bringing the state total to 553. Three of those new cases were reported on the Big Island, one of which was associated with the cluster of cases reported at a McDonald’s location in Kailua-Kona.

At Friday’s press conference, public schools superintendent Christina Kishimoto confirmed that remote classes will continue until May 28, which she said would be the last day of school. However, she added, summer school will continue to be conducted online through at least July.

Plans for the 2020-2021 school year are still pending, Kishimoto said, while graduation celebrations in the spring will be decided by individual high schools.

“We have 11,000 (high school) graduates this year, we’re very proud of them,” Kishimoto said. “We are sad that we’re not able to do a traditional ceremony, but we will be providing alternative celebrations; each of our high schools will be sharing the approach that they will take while still ensuring that it’s a safe environment.”

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

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