Limited Reopening of State Beach Parks Only For O‘ahu, Not Big Island
The confusion of outdoorsy Big Islanders following a declaration from the DLNR yesterday that beach parks were reopening to small gatherings has been allowed to revert to its original state — one of disappointment — as clarifying details indicate the easing of those restrictions does not yet apply to Hawai‘i County.
Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources announced Thursday that groups of five people or fewer would be allowed on state beaches and hiking trails. However, that change in policy does not impact current rules on the Big Island, where all state and county parks, beaches, and coastal areas remain closed to gatherings through Oct. 1.
“Just on O‘ahu,” DLNR Senior Communications Manager Dan Dennison clarified in an email. “Each county has its own particular rules that the state will mirror.”
Honolulu County was under and islandwide lockdown for four weeks, as Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Gov. David Ige attempted to quell a widespread surge of coronavirus that began spilling over into neighboring counties. The case counts also drove the return of the state’s interisland quarantine, which remains in effect.
As restrictions on the operations of businesses, attractions, and spiritual gatherings begin to ease back slightly on that island, so do limitations on outdoor gatherings.
Meanwhile, on the Big Island, where the number of cases produced by the state’s most recent coronavirus surge remains significantly lower than on O‘ahu, beaches and parks are still closed through the end of September.
The closures, part of updated emergency rules effected by Hawai‘i County Mayor Harry Kim, were originally enacted on Sept. 4 to coincide with Labor Day weekend. Kim said the action was taken as a means to limit the spread of the virus without interrupting the gradual return of the island’s fragile kama‘aina economy.
Gatherings are not permitted at Big Island beach parks, which can currently only be used to access the ocean for water activities, exercise, fishing, and use of public facilities during specific hours. Indoor and outdoor gatherings of any kind anywhere in Hawai‘i County are limited to 10 people, while restaurants and bars employ strict rules about social distancing between tables and seating parties numbering six or fewer.
Civil Defense reported a total of 14 new cases of COVID on the Big Island Friday, bringing the county-wide total just shy of 700 since the Department of Health began tracking the pandemic in late February.
As of Friday morning, 17 individuals remained hospitalized at Hilo Medical Center (HMC) due to coronavirus infections, while 28 people had died. All but two of those are connected to an outbreak at the state-run Yukio Okutsu Veterans Home in Hilo, the administration of which Mayor Kim is pressing be turned over to HMC. The state currently contracts the Avalon Health Care Group to manage the facility.