As the Labor Day weekend begins, state and county officials have pledged to enforce emergency rules related to COVID-19 in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
During a press conference Friday, Sept. 3, Gov. David Ige was joined by all county mayors and law enforcement leaders who pleaded with Hawaiʻi residents to abide by health care restrictions for the sake of not just the community but the welfare of Hawaiʻi’s overcrowded hospitals.
“Our choices today and over the weekend can help prevent the worst-case scenario for our health care system,” Ige said. “Please act responsibly this holiday weekend. Do it for the sake of your family, your community and the state.”
The spike in COVID-19 cases, Ige said, has put “tremendous stress” on the hospitals and the state is in danger of moving toward what he described as the “worst-case scenario.”
“If that happens, we have heard from our health care leaders that people may not receive the care they need and certainly some may die,” Ige said. “We’re asking everybody to work with us to limit the spread of COVID.”
Jill Hoggard Green, president & CEO of The Queen’s Health Systems, stated this is an important time for the community.
“Today is a very serious day,” Green said. “We face a delta variant that is dangerous, rapidly growing, easily transmitted and can cause serious consequences, particularly to those who aren’t vaccinated.”
Green described the health care system’s worst-case scenario as the hospitals having so many patients “that we can’t care for all of you and are unable to provide the high level of care.”
Green said there isn’t a specific number of patients being treated at the hospital that would trigger this.
“It’s when you no longer have the ability to care for the next group of patients coming in and continue to care for the individuals you have,” she said.
However, Green believes that the situation can be avoided by following the safety guidelines officials have preached since the beginning of the pandemic: avoid large gatherings, wear a mask in public, stay home when sick and wash hands regularly.
Green added the best way for someone to protect themselves and to fight the virus is to get vaccinated.
“If we all work together today, we can stop the transmission of the disease,” she said. “If we don’t, we’ll hit a point where we won’t be able to meet a patient’s needs.”
How Hawaiʻi behaves over the long weekend and into the coming weeks will determine if hospitals are headed to maximum capacity, Green added.
“We can do this,” Green said. “This is a time where we can control all that happens to us.”
Kauaʻi County Mayor Derek SK Kawakami said Labor Day weekend is a holiday that celebrates working men and women.
“But there’s going to be a set of workers who won’t be able to celebrate like most of us,” Kawakami said. “Those are our health care workers because they’re busy taking care of our sick people.”
The mayor said what community members do over the next 72 to 96 hours will determine what the next two to three months will look like — whether it burns out the countyʻs health workers, keeps keiki in school or keeps businesses open.
“We don’t have any additional restrictions because at this point in time we cannot fool ourselves and think COVID is going away,” Kawakami said. “We’re all going to have to do our part to coexist.”
The mayor asked everyone to do their part and follow the simple steps to remain safe.
Additionally, Ige approved Kawakamiʻs emergency rule that establishes fines of $250 for individuals and $500 for businesses and organizers for noncompliance with the State of Hawai‘i’s COVID safety rules.
Kauaʻi Police Department Assistant Chief Mark Begley stated during the press conference that KPD is putting together COVID enforcement teams to ensure compliance with the mayorʻs new rule.
“I implore you to follow the safety guidelines,” Begley said.