Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell Says He’s Uncertain Hawai‘i Should Welcome Visitors on Aug. 1

Citing surging numbers of cases in California, a spike in Hawai‘i cases and dwindling testing supplies, Caldwell says he’s struggling as he looks for ways to boost the economy while the city announces three more big food assistance events.
airplane in the air
photo: david croxford


Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he’s uncertain if the state should proceed with Gov. David Ige’s plan to allow visitors with proof of negative COVID-19 test results to avoid a 14-day quarantine.


Experts largely credit the two-week quarantine with allowing the state to limit the spread of the virus, which has resulted in the state recording the lowest numbers of cases in the nation.


Last week, Caldwell had supported the reopening plan as a way to help the state’s visitor-reliant economy begin to recover. But at a news conference to announce another large privately funded food assistance drive July 9 (more about how you can get assistance below), Caldwell says he is reevaluating whether that move would be safe for residents, especially those working in tourism, and the visitors themselves.


“We’re really struggling,” Caldwell says, after watching the COVID-19 situation change dramatically since last week. He noted that 40% of Hawai‘i visitors come from California, which just saw a record number of daily deaths attributed to the disease. “They’ve lost control of the virus.”


This is just three days since the number of Hawai‘i’s daily cases surged to the highest number recorded so far: 41, with 38 on O‘ahu. Wednesday, one of the state’s two largest labs, Diagnostic Laboratory Services, announced its supply of testing materials has been sharply reduced as items were rerouted to other states battling growing hot spots. Caldwell says this will cut Hawai‘i’s capacity by more than half:  from 5,000 tests a day to 2,300.


In a statement, Ige said that he and the mayors met on Wednesday, July 8, and were planning to meet again on Thursday to discuss the pre-travel testing program.


This as the most recent numbers showed the unemployment rate was 22.6% in May, just down 1% from a record high of 23.8% in April. Caldwell thanked local business leaders for contributing $290,000 to three community food-distribution events this month. Caldwell credited aio chairman and CEO Duane Kurisu with organizing the large donations. (Disclosure: HONOLULU Magazine is among the publications owned by aio Media Group.)


SEE ALSO: Hawai‘i Foodbank Has Distributed More Than 3.7 Million Pounds of Food on O‘ahu in Less than 2 Months


All supplies have already been claimed for the Leeward distribution scheduled for next Saturday. There is still food available for those planned for Windward and North Shore families. Caldwell said folks must sign up online at hawaiifoodbank.org to receive food via pre-registration by area Zip codes. Due to safety concerns, no walk-up clients will be allowed, but there’s also no need to line up.


Russell Young, president and CEO of Albert C. Kobayashi Inc., says he and others in the industry feel fortunate to have been deemed essential workers who can keep working and getting paid and want to help others. “If everybody sticks together, we’ll all survive,” Young says.


Saturday, July 11: Windward

  • Location: Windward Community College

  • Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

  • Quantity: 1,000 households, 400-500 left as of July 9

  • Pre-registration Zip codes: 96795, 96734, 96744


Saturday, July 18: Leeward

  • Location: Wai‘anae Mall

  • Time: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

  • Quantity: 1,500 households, none left

  • Pre-registration Zip codes: 96797, 96706, 96707, 96792


Saturday, July 25: North Shore (Kahana to Kaena Point)

  • Location: Polynesian Cultural Center

  • Time: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

  • Quantity: 750 households, 400 left as of July 9

  • Pre-registration Zip codes: 96730, 96717, 96762, 96731, 96712, 96791


Read more stories by Robbie Dingeman