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Hawaii reinstates strict Oahu shutdown as coronavirus cases surge

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(HONOLULU) — Hawaii’s governor approved a sweeping stay-at-home mandate in Oahu that significantly rolls back reopening plans on the state’s most-populous island.

The order, which goes into effect Thursday at midnight and last for two weeks, will force nonessential businesses to close again and restaurants to only offer takeout. It also urges all nonessential workers to work from home. Essential businesses can remain open.

“It’s going to be pretty much like the order in March, with one exception: Religious services, we’ve decided, will go on, with a lot of mandates and requirements — no singing, face coverings at all times, but that will continue,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said at a news conference Tuesday evening, announcing that his “stay-at-home, work-from-home” order had been approved by Gov. David Ige.

“If you need a haircut, go now,” Caldwell said.

“We’re going to see how it goes — we’re hopeful that the numbers will decline,” Caldwell added. “If it doesn’t work, we’ll look to continue it, but we’re hopeful that it will work and at that point we can start to return and open again.”

Caldwell pledged they will be doing “surge testing” of more than 5,000 tests a day during the next two weeks and upping contact tracing.

The move comes as the island has been grappling with an uptick in COVID-19 cases. As of Tuesday, local health officials reported there had been 6,382 confirmed cases on Oahu. The state has seen 49 deaths.

At the same news conference, Ige said that over the past week or so they’ve seen “troubling triple-digit increases” in the number of new COVID-19 cases, adding, “This has put a stress on our health care system.” Ige emphasized the new order is only for Oahu and will not affect outer islands such as Maui and Kauai.

In addition to the health crisis, Hawaii’s economy has also been walloped by a decline in tourism during the pandemic.

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