More Businesses, Parks to Reopen in Hawai‘i County
Hawai‘i County is moving forward with plans to reopen additional businesses and parks as COVID-19 case numbers continue to dwindle.
On Wednesday morning, Mayor Harry Kim announced to Hawai‘i County Council the reopening of several businesses, which takes effect immediately until May 31. Businesses include:
- Real estate services, however open houses are prohibited.
- Florist nursery and plant sales.
- Bicycle shops and repairs.
- Jewelry shops and repairs.
- Pet grooming and boarding.
- Shops that sell walking/running shoes, apparel and exercise equipment.
- Surf and swimming equipment shops and repair.
Private golf courses have been permitted to reopen. Hilo Municipal Golf Course will be open for business starting May 11.
Hawaii State Department of Health reports a total of 74 coronavirus cases on the Big Island since the pandemic started. All but four have been released from isolation.
Kim said Hawaii County, as well as the state, has done a good job in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Those efforts to stamp out the virus will continue.
County Director of Research and Development Diane Ley gave the Council an idea of what Hawai‘i County’s business community has gone through these past weeks.
“We went through shock to despair and panic — and then we turned the corner and people started to lift themselves up,” Ley said. “We took a deep breath and we know we’re all in this together.”
With more than 22,000 businesses on the Big Island, Ley said, many owner/operators were sole proprietors that had their businesses “lifted up right from underneath them.”
Ley said are looking at immediate actions they can take as business owners. They are also looking at the long-term to address systemic changes.
Maurice Messina, Executive Assistant to the Mayor, told the Council that he submitted a request to reopen Māhukona Wharf as well as trails that allow for people to social distance. Parks open for walking or jogging include:
- Hilo Bayfront Trails
- Kaūmana Lani Park (Hokulani)
- Machado Acres Park
- Wai‘ōhinu Park
- Clarence Lum Won Park
- Walua Trail
Several beach parks will reopen, allowing for direct access to and from the ocean and shoreline to engage in outdoor exercise, fishing and food gathering, as well as the use of restrooms and showers. The following parks will reopen from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.:
- Kahalu‘u Beach Park
- Magic Sands Beach Park
- Wai‘aha Bay Beach Park (Honl’s)
- Kawaihae Canoe Area
- Honoli‘i Beach Park
- Kaipalaoa Landing Beach Park
- Bayfront Beach Park
- Reed’s Bay Beach Park
- Lili‘uokalani Gardens
- Richardson Ocean Park
- Carlsmith Beach Park
- Māhukona Wharf (Doesn’t include the park section)
Gov. David Ige announced a list of various non-essential businesses that will be allowed to reopen on May 7. Among those include shopping malls. However, Kim said Hawai‘i County’s sole shopping mall, Prince Kuhio Plaza, will remain closed as it is difficult to keep track of the number of people coming to and from the facility due to the various entrances and exits.
From the beginning, Kim has said businesses should be allowed to remain open based on their compliance with health guidelines, not the services they provide.
“I see no sense of fairness that we allow big box stores to remain open while the mom-and-pop stores were forced to shut down,” Kim said.
Businesses and parks are not the only amenities reopening. The mayor said the county is committed to running the Summer Fun Program. Parks and Recreation staff have been assigned to come up with ideas on how to run an entertaining program within the confines of the health protocols. Parks and Rec will share their ideas with the mayor on Thursday.
“Not only do kids need a break, but parents need a break,” Kim said.
Councilman Tim Richards inquired after the reopening of greenwaste stations. With the stay-at-home order, now dubbed the safer-at-home order, residents islandwide have taken on outdoor projects that have created a massive amount of greenwaste, council members explained.
Kim said there are plans to reopen those sites, but was unaware of when that might be. The mayor also couldn’t provide an answer regarding the reopening of churches.
“Churches fall within the gathering number of no more than 10,” the mayor said. “All I can say at this time is I’ll bring it up for discussion.”
As more businesses reopen, Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter expressed concern regarding daycare and senior daycare services.
Kim told the council he was disappointed with the closure of those services as people rely on those programs for food, as well as social interaction.
“Right now, that is still a problem,” he said. “We’re hoping we find how the services can be provided within the health rules.”
Council members expressed their appreciation and support for Kim’s administration and their efforts to combat COVID-19.
“The fact is, the community has rallied,” said Councilman Aaron Chung. “The community has been really patient and abided by all the rules and they have to be commended for that.”
Chung added that he supports any measure of reopening community and “normalizing our way of life.”