(BIVN) – The Hawaiʻi County Council pushed Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim to take action as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 grows across the state.
The council met during a special emergency meeting in Hilo on Friday. The council got an update from the Hawaiʻi Department of Health director Dr. Bruce Anderson, and then got an update from Mayor Harry Kim, who surprised everyone when he countered a 15 Days to Slow the Spread directive from Governor David Ige, announcing instead that restaurants, bars, and places of worship may make their own decision as to whether they stay open or close.
“As elected officials, we have a responsibility to protect our community,” Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz wrote to Mayor Kim the day before the special meeting. “I’ve done my part to keep our community informed, prepared, and calm by pushing out clear, consistent, and timely information. I’ve urged residents to stock up, hunker down, and practice social distancing since those directives were not being articulated strongly enough by State or County leadership.”
“You must do more to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Kierkiewicz said. “Suspend non-essential County services now, send everyone home, close all public spaces where people gather, and order residents to isolate immediately.”
The mayor was bombarded by similar requests from other councilmembers, who have all been fielding worried calls and emails from their constituents demanding that the county do more to stop the spread of the coronavirus on the Big Island.
As the mayor spoke to the council, a letter signed by the entire Hawaiʻi Island Legislative delegation was circulated, which called the mayor to take immediate action. The letter reads:
Re: Request for Immediate Action in Response to the Public
Health Concerns Regarding Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Dear Mayor Kim,
To protect the residents of the County of Hawaiʻi and the long-term stability of our island economy, we implore you to immediately order the shut-down of non-essential county government operations and the sheltering-in-place of all people throughout the County of Hawai‘i.
As Mayor of the County of Hawai’i, we strongly urge you to take the following immediate actions through an Emergency Proclamation and Emergency Rule(s):
• Institute an immediate countywide shut down for the next fifteen (15) days.
• Order all people in the County of Hawai‘i to shelter-in-place for the next 15 days and coordinate with the Joint Incident Center under the command of the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency Director/Adjutant General Kenneth Hara to immediately use his authority under the March 16, 2020, Emergency Supplementary Proclamation by Governor Ige to take all necessary steps and required means to ensure that the supply chain for basic necessities — such as food, medicine, water, communications, gasoline, cargo and public safety throughout the County of Hawaiʻi — is secure.
• Request Director/Adjutant General Hara to secure and requisition any needed hospital and medical supplies that are necessary to assist with the coming need to treat individuals due to COVID-19, at all available Hawaiʻi Island medical facilities.
• In coordination with Governor Ige, order the quarantine of all travelers arriving from outside Hawaiʻi at the Hilo and Kona International Airports for a minimum of 15 days.
• Prohibit all non-essential inter-island and out-of-state travel from Hawaiʻi Island.
• In coordination with Governor Ige, require the immediate closure of all public and private schools, daycare centers, preschools, the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, Hawaiʻi Community College and Hawaiʻi Community College Pālamanui.
• Require the immediate closure of all County facilities and workspaces, and send home all non-essential County of Hawaiʻi personnel for the duration of the shut down.
• Limit County of Hawai‘i work to only essential personnel, provided they are equipped with the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and adhere to spatial distancing guidelines and preventive measures as recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Hawaiʻi Department of Health.
As Mayor, you are the only person who has the direct authority to institute these actions. As state legislators, we passed and continue to support the delegated authority provided to the counties under Hawai`i Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 127, which grants you, as Mayor, the power to act in emergency situations such as the unprecedented one we face today. The entire Hawaiʻi Island delegation is speaking with one collective voice, and we implore you to take immediate action for the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of the County of Hawai‘i.