Why Big Island Is Hold Out In Not Closing Bars, Restaurants

Mar 23, 2020

Counties around Hawai’i have closed public gathering spaces as confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. But one county remains an exception.

Hawaiʻi County has not yet ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, or even county facilities. And Big Island residents, politicians, and onlookers are wondering why?

Counties across the state have taken different approaches to encourage social distancing in their communities. On Kauaʻi, residents are under a county-mandated curfew. Honolulu has banned dine-in services at restaurants, and Maui only wants people to get on the roads if they need to for essential purposes, like grocery shopping.  

But on the Big Island, no such government order is in place to restrict movement or activities. That has many in Hawaiʻi County, including the islandʻs legislators and county council members calling for more aggressive action by Mayor Harry Kim. 

In an interview with KWXX’s Chris Leonard, Mayor Kim explained that just because thereʻs no county order to stay home doesnʻt mean people should not stay home. 

"I just talked to a person, very scared. 'Why donʻt you do this?' And the question to her was, 'Why donʻt you stay home?' But that wonʻt stop others, it wonʻt. But YOU can and protect yourself that way. Because it says here to limit YOUR activities, limit YOUR going out, limit YOUR contact. You donʻt need the government to tell you six feet," he said.

Kim is referring to federal guidelines provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stay at least six feet away from others to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Kim has also asked county workers to report to work as normal this week saying a total shutdown of county services would be “impossible” and detrimental to the health and welfare of the people of the Big Island.

The Big Island has also not imposed a shelter-in-place order, which mandates that residents who are not essential workers to stay at home and work from home.

The City and County of Honolulu and Maui County have issued those emergency orders -- the city's takes effect at 4:30 p.m. today and Maui's order goes into effect Wednesday. Kauai is expected to announce its stay-at-home order shortly.