Restrictions to Return to Big Island Beaches for Labor Day
Hawai‘i County plans to take preventative action to stop the Labor Day Holiday from producing major COVID-19 spreading events amid the current surge on the Big Island.
Mayor Harry Kim confirmed to Big Island Now that he submitted a request Tuesday asking Gov. David Ige to approve restrictions that would limit access to beach parks for two weeks between Sept. 4 and Sept. 19.
“It’s a request to close all the shoreline parks. By closure, I mean that beach parks can only be used for access to the ocean, engaging in exercise, fishing, gathering food, and the use of restrooms and showers,” Kim said.
People will still be able to rest on benches or lounge on the beach in groups of 10 or fewer, a restriction that is already in place for all indoor and outdoor gatherings county-wide. The difference, the mayor said, is the type of gatherings and the accessories his new restrictions will temporarily ban.
“What we’re prohibiting are large, (prolonged) gatherings there,” Kim said. “No pop tents or barbecues. No use of pavilions. No tarps. No canopies. None of that will be allowed.”
Kim said Big Islanders haven’t been adhering closely enough to rules about gathering sizes, social distancing, and the wearing of face coverings, which are mandatory in all establishments and when venturing out in public.
He blamed that behavior for the continued spread of coronavirus cases as a surge has gripped the county for the last several weeks. Conditions are particularly concerning in East Hawai‘i, where three residents of the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home have died since several dozen people associated with the home began testing positive for the disease.
Labor Day Weekend is a popular day for beach outings, and while those individuals not subject to quarantine will be able to utilize the beaches to a lesser extent, police enforcement will be ramped up on shorelines across the Big Island. A total of eight people were arrested between Saturday and Monday for violation of COVID-19 protocols, an initiative the mayor said will continue.
“We are trying to make sure we don’t create situations that (these gatherings) will cause the spread of the virus,” Kim said. “We really need the community’s help.”
However, the mayor added that daily virus reports and testing have actually intensified his belief that locking down the island, similar to what O‘ahu has done, is not the right move.
“The restaurants have never been the problem,” Kim said. “The bars are being inspected every day. I’m pleased with some (establishments) displaying gold star awards (given) to those who go beyond the call in terms of compliance.”