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A COVID-19 Timeline: How Honolulu Got To This Point

The state Department of Education extends distance learning through early October as Honolulu businesses close down and families dig in for two weeks. Here are major milestones since the Coronavirus pandemic began changing life in Hawai‘i.


covid testing at ala moana honolulu hawaii may 2020

Photo: David Croxford


Aug. 27 Update

The state Department of Education has extended distance learning for most students, and all campuses on Oʻahu, through Oct. 2, the end of the first quarter. Most neighbor island schools will do the same, except for Hāna High and Elementary School on Maui and schools on Molokaʻi.


The decision comes as Honolulu began a two-week Stay-At-Home order, shutting down stores, gyms, hair salons, museums, car dealerships and all non-essential businesses through Sept. 9., and the state reported four more deaths from COVID-19. Thousands lined up for second day of federally funded surge testing at sites across the state


Original story published Aug. 3

August arrived with renewed restrictions in Honolulu. On Tuesday, Aug. 18, Mayor Kirk Caldwell ordered a stop to all social gatherings and limited groups in restaurants, outdoor attractions, boats and more to five or fewer starting Thursday, Aug. 20 for 28 days. This comes little more than two weeks after Caldwell restricted groups to 10 or fewer and ordered people to wear masks when gathering inside or outside, three days after O‘ahu bars began a three-week shutdown, a shutdown that was also extended, as part of the city’s moves to slow the spread of COVID-19. 


In August, one-day case counts in Hawai‘i remained in the triple digits and the total number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 surpassed 5,000, a number that was below 2,000 at the end of July. 


The announcement did not coming with any other shutdowns. The closing of bars, now through mid September, was the first significant reversals since the state began slowly reopening in mid-April and many leaders warn they might not be the last if cases continue to increase. Here is a look at key moments since the state began posting daily COVID-19 updates in late February.


SEE ALSO: Our Separate Reality: Snapshots of Honolulu’s New Normal

coronavirus shut down hawaii

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino


Feb. 21: The state Department of Health begins daily COVID-19 updates after learning a visitor from Japan tested positive after a trip to Hawai‘i. No cases connected to this were found in the state, although 56 people were self-monitoring.


March 5: Gov. David Ige issues his first emergency proclamation to prepare the state for possible emergency action.


March 6: The DOH announces the first Hawai‘i case of COVID-19 in an O‘ahu man who became ill after a cruise to Mexico on the Grand Princess cruise ship. The ship already confirmed 21 cases.


March 15: The state Department of Education decides to extend public school spring break by another week. (Total case count: 7 confirmed statewide. All are travel related.)


March 18: Caldwell announces O‘ahu will go under stay-at-home orders starting on March 23. DOH launches hawaiicovid19.com with the latest updates. (Total case count: 16 statewide.)


hawaii shut down coronavirus

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino 


March 21: Ige announces a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all travelers, to begin March 26.


March 23: First COVID-19 death is announced, then later is rescinded for investigation. Caldwell’s stay-at-home orders go into effect for O‘ahu at 4:30 p.m. All businesses, except for those deemed essential, are ordered closed along with city parks and beach parks. All city events are canceled through the summer. (Total case count: 77 statewide.)


March 25: The state and Maui County stay-at-home orders go into effect. All public gathering spaces are closed until April 30.


March 26: Mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers to the state goes into effect. Jobless claims for March hit 82,963. (Total case count: 106 statewide.)


March 31: An older O‘ahu man with other medical issues is confirmed as the first person to die of COVID-19 in Hawai‘i. The state says he recently traveled to Las Vegas. (Total case count: 224 statewide.)


April 1: State enacts 14-day self-quarantine for interisland travelers. Hawai‘i marks a new record one-day total of cases with 34 which pushes the total number to 319 statewide.


April 2: An elderly O‘ahu man becomes Hawai‘i’s second COVID-19 death. (Total case count: 285 statewide.)


April 3: An elderly O‘ahu man who went to Washington state is confirmed as Hawai‘i’s third COVID-19 death.


April 4: A 65-year-old man from East O‘ahu is the fourth COVID-19 death. (Total case count: 349 statewide.)


April 10: At 11 p.m., Honolulu enacts a nightly curfew for the Easter weekend. All travel is banned from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Friday through Monday morning.


April 13: Total number of Hawai‘i cases surpasses 500. Nine people have died.


April 17: The governor closes state beaches and places a moratorium on evictions. The DOE announces distance learning will continue through the end of the school year. (Total case count: 551 statewide, including 9 deaths.)


SEE ALSO: Hawai‘i High School Senior Talks About Life and Graduation During a Pandemic

beaches closed in hawaii

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino


April 19: Daily case counts fall to single digits. This continues for almost two months.


April 21: A woman from Las Vegas and a man from Sydney are arrested for violating the required 14-day quarantine. A hotel manager alerted the state that they were leaving their rooms. 


April 23: Face masks are required in all places of business and on public transportation in Honolulu. The state says 164 visitors arrived at the airports yesterday, compared to nearly 30,000 daily passengers a year ago.


April 24: Caldwell extends Honolulu stay-at-home orders through May 31.


SEE ALSO: Lee Anne Wong: What it’s Like to Close a Restaurant During the COVID-19 Pandemic


April 25: The state extends stay-at-home orders and the 14-day quarantine for travelers until May 31. Honolulu city parks and state beaches reopen for exercise only. (Daily case count: 3 statewide. Total: 604.) 


April 30: Honolulu announces shopping centers, sport fields and courts and drive-in services for religious purposes may reopen on May 15. Dine-in food courts, play areas and arcades must remain closed. Outdoor exercising is allowed for groups of 10 people or fewer.


May 5: The state goes into safer-at-home orders, allowing for low-risk facilities to reopen on May 7. (Daily case count: 4 statewide. Total: 625.)


May 8: No new cases are reported for the first time since mid-March. The state will see no new cases on seven other days through early June. (Total case count: 629 statewide.)


May 16: Honolulu beaches reopen for all recreation, with social distancing. (Daily case count: 1 statewide. Total: 638.)


May 18: Ige changes state’s “Safer at Home” phase to “Acting with Care,” allowing businesses categorized as medium risk—including salons, theaters, churches and restaurants—to reopen in a few weeks. He also extends 14-day quarantine for all travelers and the moratorium for evictions through June 30. (Daily case count: 0.)


hair salons reopen in hawaii

Hair salons such as The Sustainery Hair Studio in Mānoa reopened on May 18.
Photo: Katie Kenny


May 23: In-person spiritual services may resume, with social distancing.


June 5: Honolulu restaurants are allowed to open dining rooms. Honolulu Zoo also reopens.


June 8: All state beaches and some state parks reopen for recreation.


June 12: Daily case counts reach double digits for the first time since April 18. Ten confirmed cases are in one family. The 17 cases push Hawai‘i’s total to 706.


June 16: Interisland travelers no longer have to self-quarantine.


June 19: Gyms, recreation areas, bars and most other places are allowed to reopen in Honolulu. Kaua‘i reports its first new case in two months. The daily count of 27 new cases is the largest increase since April 4.


SEE ALSO: Real Gastropub, Hawai‘i’s First Restaurant to Focus on Craft Beer, Won’t be Reopening

wearing masks in hawaii during coronavirus



June 20: Total cases surpass 800.


June 24: Ige announces plans to allow out-of-state visitors to avoid the 14-day quarantine if they produce negative COVID-19 test results upon arrival. New guidelines are set to go into effect Aug. 1. (Daily case count: 16 statewide.)


July 2: Honolulu expands mask wearing mandate to include outdoor activities, including exercise, if social distancing is not possible. (Daily case count: 20 statewide. Total: 946.)


July 7: The state reports 41 new cases, the highest number since the pandemic began. A new record will be set just four days later, with 42 cases.


SEE ALSO: Mayor Caldwell Says He’s Uncertain Hawai‘i Should Welcome Visitors on Aug. 1


July 14: Honolulu orders bars and restaurants to stop selling alcohol at midnight.


July 23: Hawaiʻi starts three record-setting days of case counts: 55, followed by 60 on July 24 and 73 on July 25. Masks are now required in Honolulu gyms after COVID-19 clusters are tied to several on O‘ahu.


July 29: Daily cases hit triple digits. Statewide, 109 confirmed cases are reported. The next day, a new high is set with 124 cases.


July 31: Honolulu bars close for at least three weeks. Restaurants must stop serving drinks at 10 p.m. (Daily case count: 123 statewide, including 18 in children 18 years and younger. Total: 2,111.)


Aug. 3: One-day case counts hit a new record at 207. Caldwell orders gatherings restricted to 10 people or fewer.


Aug. 7: The state Department of Education announces that public schools will go to distance learning through September, though some schools still plan face-to-face meetings for student orientation and training, a move that leads to the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association filing a legal complaint against the state. The first day of instruction is set for Monday, Aug. 17. 


Aug. 13: Daily case counts set a new record at 355, marking more than a dozen days of triple-digit reports driven, in part, by an outbreak at the Oʻahu Community Correctional Center.


Aug. 18: Caldwell enacts Emergency Order 2020-24 called Act With Care, No Social Gatherings. There are 204 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, compared with 75 on Aug. 1.


Aug. 25: Caldwell announces a new Stay-At Home Order to go into effect on Thursday, Aug. 27. Essential businesses will be allowed to stay open including health care, child care, banks, grocery stores, gas stations and other key services. This time, however, religious services are also allowed to continue as long as families are separated and singing is not allowed. Restaurants must switch back to takeout and delivery only; stores, golf courses, hair salons, auto dealerships, gyms and recreation areas must also close for business.


Aug. 26: Federally funded surge testing, under the oversight of U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, begins with traffic backing up for hours at Leeward Community College and Kāneʻohe District Park. Almost 5,000 people are tested at the drive-thru sites on the same day that 277 new cases pushes the statewide total above 7,000.


Aug. 27: The DOE extends distance learning for most students until Oct. 2. Honolulu begins the new two-week Stay-At-Home order reminiscent of the shutdown in March. Four more deaths bring the total to 55. The daily case count, 306, makes the total 7,566, which is more than triple the number of cases recorded between March and July.


Aug. 31: DOH Director Anderson and Director of Public Safety Nolan Espinda announce they will retire in September. Both have been under attack as COVID-19 cases across the state and in Hawaiʻi's prisons spiked. Seven deaths make this the deadliest day in the state since the pandemic began. Honolulu mayor Caldwell announces that the federal government will supply an additional 30,000 tests, for a total of 90,000 free tests for Oʻahu residents.



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