Editor’s note: This comes as many countries update travel regulations. Learn more about potential travel restrictions to countries in the European Union here.
Hawaii officials are considering a stay-at-home order for Labor Day weekend after the state suffered its worst day ever for coronavirus cases on Sunday.
There were two deaths and 1,678 new cases reported Sunday, the highest total since the pandemic began nearly 18 months ago, the State Department of Health reported.
Hawaii has now surpassed 62,000 cases and nearly 600 deaths since the pandemic began, numbers that have state officials alarmed.
“No matter how you slice it, COVID-19 is running roughshod through the islands, and people must take necessary steps to protect themselves,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green told The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “Vaccinate. Mask. Distance. Stay home when sick. Avoid crowds.”
With cases on the rise, hospitals are being overrun by patients. Health Director Elizabeth Char said 414 people were hospitalized on Sunday with coronavirus, and hospitals are at a breaking point.
“If our numbers continue to press up against 500, I think that the governor and mayors will have to strongly consider life-preserving policy changes, which would at least mean a 72-hour stay-at-home order over the holiday,” Green said. “We saw what happened over July Fourth. Labor Day could be like pouring gasoline over the fire.”
Governor David Ige offered a different message, however, taking to social media Sunday night to dispute that a shutdown is imminent.
“There have been rumors circulating about a shutdown in Hawaii,” Ige wrote on Twitter. “I want to clear the record that there are currently no plans to shut down. All posts on social media being distributed by other means are not true. Official announcements will always come from official channels.”
But Ige himself said last week that a shutdown was “on the table” as Hawaii deals with rising COVID numbers. Last Monday, Ige urged tourists to stay away from the islands right now.
“It is not a good time to travel to the islands. I encourage everyone to restrict and curtail travel to Hawaii,” Ige said last week. “Is a lockdown on the table? Yes, it would be if the number of cases continues to grow exponentially as it has in the last 10 weeks. Then we will have to take action to limit and ensure that the hospitals aren’t overrun.”
Green said top government and health officials will meet early this week to discuss the numbers and a plan for action. But as residents and tourists await a decision, the numbers continue to look grim.
“This tidal wave of cases is straining our ability to respond at all levels — our hospitals, our labs and even our morgues are nearing or at capacity,” Char said. “We have not yet reached the peak of this surge, and we will not until Hawaii residents take further steps to protect themselves and their families.”
One doctor told Hawaii News Now that there is no other option at this point.
“Our backs are well past being against the wall,” Dr. Scott Miscovich said. “We are now at the point where there’s only one option, and that option is closing down, plain and simple.”