Scientists say Hawaii now has the highest rate of any state for spreading COVID-19 infections, which has prompted a law enforcement crackdown on residents violating social distancing orders.
The Honolulu Police Department announced Monday there were about 1,350 citations issued to people who violated Mayor Kirk Caldwell's August 6 coronavirus emergency orders against gathering in large groups. According to police, the majority of citations over the weekend were given to residents who entered closed beaches or parks, or who assembled in groups of more than 10 people. KHON-TV reported that within 24 hours, more than 300 phone calls and 80 emails were sent to law enforcement about possible violations of the "Act With Care—Do Not Gather" order.
At least one arrest was made over the weekend for violations of the emergency order, including an alleged perpetrator who was trying to kick and resist an officer attempting to issue a citation. In another incident over the weekend, officers cited a Pearl Ridge bar owner for operating his business illegally under the new August restrictions. He was ultimately ordered to close down the bar and surrender his establishment's liquor license to authorities.
Newsweek reached out to the Honolulu mayor's office Tuesday afternoon for any additional remarks about efforts to enforce the social distancing emergency orders.
Hawaii News Now reported Monday that the state is seeing a triple-digit increase in COVID-19 infections. which has now put the state at the top of the list of virus "reproduction rates." According to state health officials, every person who gets sick with coronavirus passes it on to an average of 1.6 other people.
"That is very, very high," Caldwell said, noting that the closest comparative states of South Dakota and Texas are only at a reproduction rate of 1.16.
"It's just a glaring example of how we need to be serious about this. We need to wear masks. We need to social distance," said Dr. Scott Miscovich, who has overseen COVID-19 testing efforts statewide and on the mainland United States since the pandemic broke out in March. "We are spreading it in closed respiratory environments. Get outside. It's very serious."
Caldwell's August 6 orders give him the legal authority to suspend "any county law that impedes...or may be detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the public." His emergency disaster proclamation states that the mayor can also "restrict the congregation of the public in stricken areas or under dangerous conditions."
The HPD COVID-19 hotline is 808-723-3900, and the email to report any potential violations of the mayor's order is firstname.lastname@example.org.