Gov. David Ige Says Many Businesses in Hawai‘i Can Reopen Beginning May 7

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell proposed waiting until May 15 to ease restrictions.
ala moana mall
Photo: David Croxford


More Hawai‘i businesses—including pet groomers, wholesale and warehouse operations as well as health care services—will begin to be allowed to reopen beginning Thursday, Gov. David Ige announced Tuesday in his daily briefing.


But after pushback from at least the mayors of Honolulu and Maui, the governor last night announced that some retail stores and shopping malls will wait to open until next week on O‘ahu. And that Maui County has not set a date for reopening retail or shopping malls; and childcare operations could resume this week, also a change from what the governor said yesterday morning.


The governor’s office sent out the seventh emergency proclamation at 7:40 p.m. yesterday with the language about shopping malls, retail and repair services, changed to say those will not reopen in Honolulu until May 15, and shopping malls, retail and most repair will not reopen in Maui county yet. 


Ige says all customers and workers will need to adhere to social distancing, sanitation and workplace safety guidelines. He said this next phase is called “Safer At Home” to emphasize that social distancing and limited contact with others has allowed the state to keep the COVID-19 case number low. Ige acknowledged the disease has taken a “devastating toll on our economy” and says he expects it will continue to have an impact over the next 12 to 24 months.


When Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell held his own briefing two hours after Ige’s on Tuesday, it was clear that he wasn’t too happy about the governor’s accelerated time frame. “We thought the 15th was a safer way to go but a decision has been made and we will live with it,” Caldwell said.


Ige also included nonprofit organizations in businesses that may reopen but said that does not include daycare operations, worship services or any large gatherings. Without childcare, many workers were asking how they could return. In the early briefing, Ige says he knows childcare is critical to workers but that he isn’t ready to open the vital service. But last night’s announcement and the latest emergency proclamation included childcare as reopening.


The governor said businesses that may reopen this week also include: nonfood agricultural operations such as landscapers; car washes; pet grooming; and astronomical observatories, beginning May 7 at 12:01 a.m.


Ige said he wasn’t ready to allow reopening of schools, restaurants, hair stylists and places of worship, lying on the beaches or relaxing the 14-day quarantine for travelers but expects further announcements later this month if warranted. “We are not out of the woods yet, but we are getting there.”


For the businesses that are reopening, he cautioned customers to go alone or in family clusters, not in groups. Ige and Caldwell said they’ve been discussing with restaurants how to reopen for dine-in rather than just takeout and delivery. As plans are made to gradually reopen, Ige says large sporting events and large gatherings still present a high risk.


Caldwell says he’s hopeful the state will call for allowing only 50% of pre-pandemic occupancy for shops and for malls to keep their bars, food courts, play and entertainment areas closed. 


Caldwell also continues to press for comprehensive testing as part of the reopening strategy. He is asking the state to allow the Hawai‘i National Guard to be trained to perform contact tracing. “If we don’t do aggressive testing, contact tracing and quarantine, then we don’t know where the virus is and it’s difficult to tamp it down, which means we may have to stop opening up if we see an increase in the number of cases,” Caldwell said.


He proposes future testing of: all close contacts of confirmed cases, those people’s contacts, all health care workers, first responders, those who work with vulnerable populations, and when tourism is allowed to reopen, those who come into close contact with tourists. 


As of noon on May 5, four new cases were reported, three on O‘ahu and one Hawai‘i resident diagnosed out of state, bringing the statewide total to 625. Three new recoveries pushed that total to 551. A total of 73 (12%) required hospitalization and more than 35,000 tests have been administered, according to the state Health Department.


Read more stories by Robbie Dingeman