Hawaii Updates: Public Schools Closed; Kauai Curfew; Honolulu and Maui Close Dine-In Service

Mar 18, 2020

Updated: 3/18/20, 6:30 p.m.

See yesterday's updates on governor's call for tourists to postpone visits, strict limits for bars and restaurants, latest coronavirus cases.

Hawaii public school students will not be returning to school after the extended spring break. The Hawaii State Deparment of Education has closed schools until April 7.

At Gov. David Ige's press conference on Tuesday, he said non-essential state employees would be required to start working from home-- with the exception of the Department of Education.

However, starting Thursday, all non-essential DOE employees will be required to work from home, according to the department in a statement. Employees who need to be on-campus or in an office to complete tasks will  still be required to go to work, but will be sent back to telework after completing those specific duties.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association filed a formal complaint with the Labor Relations Board on Tuesday, challenging Ige's plan to have teachers return to work during an extended spring break next week and prepare for social distancing to combat the coronavirus when students return to classes on March 30.

The union representing 13,700 teachers said the governor's plan endangers teachers, students, families and the community by restarting school at the end of the month. HSTA pointed out that resuming classes would contradict the governor's directive to refrain from holding gatherings of 10 or more people.

“As a teacher at Hawaii’s largest school, Campbell High, which has 3,000-plus students, I have had to teach more than 40 students in one period. I know social distancing won’t work," said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee in a statement.

"I have heard from kindergarten teachers who have shared that trying to stop kindergartners from touching their noses and then wanting to give you a hug is impossible."

Rosenlee said the Department of Education's procedures to separate a sick child who attends school to reduce the risk of infection won't be adequate. "The potential for explosure has already occurred," he said.

He said in contrast to DOE, the board of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools representing private schools recommends that the schools consider closing campuses for at least four weeks.

The union said forcing teachers to return to schools during the four-day extended break "will put the lives of educators, students, and families in danger and could help the coronavirus spread further in the islands."

On Tuesday, Ige directed nonessential state employees to work at home for 15 days but specifically exempted the Department of Education from his directive, allowing for social distancing preparations.

The union said the plan violates the teachers' collective bargaining agreement. The contract requires that teachers not be made to work under conditions that endanger their health and safety. If students are not required to attend school due to emergencies, teachers cannot be mandated to remain at school, according to HSTA.

Ige's communications director, Cindy McMillan, said by email that the governor did not have a comment on Tuesday night.

In a statement, the DOE said the governor's directive requires department employees to report to work, but added that Superintendent Christina Kishimoto plans a meeting Wednesday to "do some critical decision making."

Latest coronavirus cases

The latest state Department of Health numbers indicate two more individuals on Oahu have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the state total to 16. 

Oahu has the most cases with 10, followed by Maui (3), Kauai (2) and Hawaii Hawaii Island (1).

Kauai issues curfew

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami announced a nighttime curfew will go into effect starting Friday, March 20. The curfew will be in effect between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. The county is urging residents to stay home during those specified hours.

There are exceptions, such as individuals commuting to and from work, residents who work for essential service providers, those seeking medical attention and delivery services for food service establishments or stores.

More information about Mayor Kawakami's latest emergency rule can be found here.

University of Hawaii goes online

The University of Hawaii announced it will be conducting online instruction for the remainder of the semester.

The university originally planned to resume in-person classes on April 13. However, UH President David Lassner said in a statement that Ige’s announcement on Tuesday was one of the reasons for the change.

The university’s campuses will continue to stay open with the exception of a public services that the schools provide such as libraries which will no longer be open to the public. UH officers will also have the authority to close off full buildings or sections of buildings that they deem unnecessary.

The university’s traditional dining services will also be phased out and replaced with take-out, grab-n-go and delivery.

All public events connected with the university are canceled through the end of April.

Caldwell signs supplemental proclamation

Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed a supplemental proclamation Wednesday afternoon, closing city facilities and mandating restaurants, bars and nightclubs suspend dine-in services. Effective immediately, city facilities such as: Honolulu Zoo, municipal golf courses and city parks will be closed until April 30. Meanwhile, city services, such as water, sewer and trash, will continue to operate normally.

TheBus and Handivan operations will continue to operate on their normal schedules. And the Department of Planning and Permitting will continue to accept building permit applications, but by appointment only.

Starting Friday, Honolulu restaurants will be limited to take-out, delivery, drive-thru or curb-side service for the next 15 days. Caldwell said he understands the impact the mandate will have on businesses and their employees, but he made the decision to protect everyone from the virus spread. 

A copy of the proclamation is below.

Maui County issues public health emergency rules

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino also issued a number of emergency rules that will go into effect Friday morning. The rules aim to limit group gatherings to 10 or less people, and limit vehicular transportation for essential activities -- such as grocery shopping, seeking medical attention, and performing work related operation for essential business or government function.

Victorino is also requiring restaurants to cease dine-in service -- only allowing take-out and delivery. Bars, nightclubs, theaters, tourist attractions and other venues will remain closed.

This is a developing story. Please return for update